The families of two men killed on July 3 when a tree limb fell on them as they watched fireworks from the lawn of the Rock Island County Courthouse have filed a wrongful death suit against the county.
The 35-count suit, filed in the county courts, also names the Rock Island County Sheriff's Office, the city of Rock Island and Raney Horticultural Inc./Raney Tree Care as defendants. The plaintiffs are the estates of Lawrence K. Anderson and Daniel Mendoza, the men who were killed, and the men's wives, Randy Anderson and Eva Mendoza. Also named as plaintiffs are Kathleen Carter and Kataivreonna Carter.
The Carters were also struck by the limb or its branches, the suit states.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs detail what responsibilities they believe the defendants had in regard to the tree’s care and why they believe the defendants were negligent in those responsibilities.
Rock Island County, sheriff's office
The county and its sheriff’s office were responsible for the trees on the courthouse lawn, including their inspection, maintenance and — should it be needed — removal.
The sheriff’s office either knew or should have known the danger the tree, which the plaintiffs argue was visibly decayed, represented.
On Tuesday, Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos said he was aware of the suit and that it was in the hands of the county’s legal department. He declined to comment further.
City of Rock Island
The city cares for trees near or on its public rights of way, the suit states. The tree at issue had limbs and branches that stretched over a city sidewalk and 15th Street.
Rock Island also recognized or should have recognized the tree’s ailing condition and the threat it posed, the suit states.
Dave Morrison, Rock Island’s city attorney, declined on Tuesday to comment on the suit.
Raney Tree Care
The plaintiffs argue Raney was hired by the county to care for the courthouse trees before the July 3 incident. The company, they contend, knew or should have recognized that the tree was decaying and was a danger.
Raney should have removed the tree and/or notified the government entities responsible for its condition, the suit states.
A message was left Tuesday afternoon at the Raney business number, but a representative of the company had not returned the call as of 6 p.m.
The plaintiffs are asking for damages in excess of $50,000, the suit states.
When suits are filed, the defendants can file answers to the plaintiffs’ complaints. In these filings, the defendants respond to the allegations filed against them.
None of the defendants in the tree suit had filed an answer as of Tuesday.