Two neighbours in Toronto contested the ownership of a large Norway maple tree. Katherine Hartley claimed sole ownership of the tree and wanted to cut it down because she feared it was dangerous. Her neighbours contended that the tree straddled their property line, so that they had ownership of the tree too, and they wished to keep it. Justice Moore of the Ontario Superior Court had to determine where a tree crosses a boundary line. The neighbour wanting to remove the tree claimed that a tree crosses a boundary at the point where the trunk emerges from the ground. The neighbours wanting to keep the tree argued that a tree is a boundary tree when its trunk crosses the boundary line above its roots and beneath its leafy canopy and that the base of a tree be measured where the trunk meets the root ball. They hired three experts; an arborist, forester, and landscape architect to present this evidence, and evidence that the tree was perfectly healthy. In the end, Justice Moore depended on his interpretation of the Ontario Forestry Act. He ruled that this tree was a boundary tree within the definition in the Act, which includes the entire trunk from its point of growth away from its roots up to its top where it branches out into limbs and foliage. He ruled that co-ownership followed this decision, and dismissed Ms. Hartley’s application for a declaration of sole ownership of the tree.
Hartley v. Cunningham et al, 2013 ONSC 2929 (CanLII)