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Homeowner frustrated by rail company’s response to fallen tree

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A Cumberland County man says he’s frustrated after a tree on Norfolk Southern’s property fell on his house last month, as the company is refusing to help pay for the costs of the damage and tree removal.

Michael Eby said he’d been concerned about the trees that are few feet from his house and had asked the railway company to remove them.

“These large trees here that are overhanging this cliff. And, some are looking somewhat rotted too, that they could just fall at any moment if we get one of these large snowstorms,” said Eby.

On Feb. 5, Eby said he got a call from the tenant living in the home he owns on Market Street in Wormleysburg. A tree had fallen on the roof, causing an electrical wire to fall.

Emergency crews “actually made her come out the front door, but made her crawl down backwards down the stairs under the live wire,” said Eby.

The tenant was fine. So, soon after, Eby said he contacted Norfolk Southern to see what the company would do about removing the tree and helping him to pay for the damage.

Eby said a claims adjuster told him, “They’re going to deny the claim because it was weather-related. And, they consider it unforeseen, and they don’t have any legal liability.”

Norfolk Southern spokesman David Pidgeon declined to comment to FOX43, saying the company doesn’t discuss individual claims.

Eby reached out to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Jennifer Kocher, a spokeswoman for the commission, said her agency can’t force Norfolk Southern to do anything, as the none of the trees near Eby’s home are impacting the safety of the rail line itself.

“As far as the Public Utility Commission is concerned, we can’t help them in any way. We’d like to be able to. We just don’t have that type of authority. If we tried to force the railroad to do something like that, they’d push back against it,” said Kocher. “The trees and those kinds of things are not affecting the operation of the railroad facilities, and so we don’t have the authority over them to order anything about the trees.”

According to a blog post by the Better Business Bureau, if your neighbor’s healthy tree falls on your property, generally you’re responsible. (Click here to see explanation)

Part of the fallen tree is still resting on some utility lines behind Eby’s house. Eby said Norfolk Southern suggested he figure out what company owns those lines and see if that company will pay to remove the remainder of the tree.

“It does not seem fair that someone who owns the trees, on their property, and they fall and cause damage to my property, that I would be at risk for covering that,” said Eby. “This is a large company operating in our area and our community. I think they do have a responsibility to remove these trees and be concerned about the safety of the inhabitants in this area.”