City could settle 2018 complaint over 15-foot tree branch that fell on woman driving in North Long Beach

The Long Beach City Attorney’s Office is recommending that the city settle a 2018 lawsuit filed by a woman who alleged that a 15-foot branch from a dead or rotting eucalyptus tree fell on her car as she was driving on Atlantic Avenue in late 2017.

The recommended settlement amount, $245,000, is in line with what plaintiff Crystal Whitsett was seeking in her original complaint, which she filed in Long Beach Superior Court in October 2018. That complaint said Whitsett was entitled to an amount more than $100,000.

The branch, which was 6 inches in diameter, left a crater in the hood of Whitsett’s car and sent her to the hospital with excruciating neck and back pain, according to the original complaint.

The lawsuit says Whitsett was headed south on Atlantic at 61st Street on the afternoon of Dec. 1, 2017, when the branch fell from a tree in the center median.

Whitsett is a single mother who still has trouble bending, lifting or doing other basic tasks to take care of her kids as a result of injuries incurred during the accident, according to her lawsuit.

Whitsett accused the city of being negligent in maintaining the trees in the median.

A city report released last year said that 14,000 of the city’s 29,000 park trees are dead, diseased or dying.

City Attorney Charles Parkin said the settlement figure, which includes attorney’s fees and costs, came about following “extensive negotiations,” according to a staff report submitted to the City Council.

The case was originally scheduled to go to trial last year, but it was delayed by court closures necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to court records.

An attorney for Whitsett didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the settlement during its July 5 meeting.

Woman sues, alleging 15-foot tree branch fell on her as she drove in North Long Beach

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Anthony Pignataro is an investigative reporter and editor for the Long Beach Post. He has close to three decades of experience in journalism leading numerous investigations and long-form journalism projects for the OC Weekly and other publications. He joined the Post in May 2021.