Guest Opinion Submitted to the Union Democrat Today by Chuck Wagner, M.A.H.A. President

“Property owners in the Mi Wuk Area with dead trees that qualify for County help are in a position of being between a rock and a hard spot. Sign a form giving up your right to hold the contractor liable or not sign the form and receive no help.

“Recently the owners of property in Mi Wuk Village area of Tuolumne County received a Letter from the county regarding dead or dying tree removal. In this letter the County has asked property owners to sign away any liability rights against the County and its contractors along with permission for the County and or its contractors to enter your property. By signing this form you have given up any liability coverage that you normally would require the contractor to have and to name you as also insured on his policy while he is performing work on your property. While the County claims it is insisting that the contractor be licensed and insured you have no way of knowing that, besides you have given up any claim you may have had against the County and their contractor. I see no problem with giving up my claim against the county as they are actually doing me a favor by taking down and removing dead trees at no cost to me. That however is a decision that has to be made by each property owner with or without the advice of his or her attorney and insurance agent.  However I have a problem not being able to file a claim against the Counties contractor. Should he drop a tree on your or your neighbor’s house you have no way to file a claim against the contractor and your own insurance company will most likely refuse to pay as you gave up all your rights to file a claim against the contractor. I would recommend that you call and discuss this with your attorney and or insurance agent as not all insurance companies policies are the same.

“As the contract is between the County and the Contractor and the property owner is not involved with the actual contract the County should at least provide us with a copy of the contractor’s license and liability insurance policy. All though these may be a mute factor, but I would feel better knowing the contractor was actually licensed and insured.

“It’s my understanding this clause is being required by the State of California’s OES (Office of Emergency Services) if the County had not included it then they would not have received any money to remove dead and dying trees. In other words the standard blackmail often used by State and Federal agencies has come into play. The County was between a rock and a hard place and had to include the clause. Why the State OES would require this clause is hard to understand unless they feel that they would become the deep pockets in any lawsuit arriving from negligence on the contractors part.

“At this point property owners either sign the release and entry form or receive no help from the County on removing dead trees should you qualify for help under the rules as put forth by the County.

“I received a call from a person stating that he had talked to County personal including County Counsel. He called Senator Tom Berryhill’s office representing the 8th District in California, phone number (916) 651-4009 he spoke to Dana Jorgenson who was unaware of any of the above and was going to look into it. He also called Assemblyman of the 5th District Frank Bigelow’s office, phone number (916) 319-2005, but at the time he spoke to me he had not heard back from them. It appears that if we want to get this language changed we will have to call, email or write these two gentlemen in large numbers and perhaps they can bring pressure upon the California O.E.S. To remove or change the language so that we have the necessary protection that we would normally have.”

Chuck Wagner,

President M.A.H.A.
24411 Sierra Park
Mi Wuk Village, CA 95346
Home Phone: 586-5476

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