A recent Land Court case, Bassin v. Fairley, 11 MISC 451773 (AHS) (Mass. Land Ct. June 17, 2014), provides a good reminder of the kind of inquiry a court will make when deciding whether a landowner can remove a tree that straddles a common boundary line.
It is certainly not unusual to hear about tree cutting cases where a landowner wants to trim the branches of a neighbor's tree that overhang the common boundary line-which is lawful, to a point-or even those cases where a person trespasses onto the land of another to trim or cut down trees entirely situated on that lot-which is unlawful. Whatever the underlying motivation for such trimming and cutting, Massachusetts law is fairly clear about whether liability and damages will ensue under those circumstances.
A landowner who discovers that one or more trees have been unlawfully cut or cleared from his property is entitled to recover monetary damages as compensation for the loss. And, in many instances, the landowner may be entitled to treble (triple) damages resulting from the unauthorized cutting.