PSB attorneys Robert Glassman and Jonathan Davidi held a press conference in Los Angeles today alongside the family of Kahlil Gay, a 23-year-old physics researcher who tragically died last month when he was crushed by a decaying and poorly maintained tree in Northern California. Kahlil’s parents, Darryl Gay and Tunisia Peden-Gay, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the property owner and numerous landscape companies for breaching their duty of care by carelessly and negligently failing to keep the property in a safe condition which resulted in their son’s death.
“What happened to Kahlil Gay is a terrible tragedy that should have never happened,” said attorney Robert Glassman. “This brilliant and caring young man’s life was cut short as a result of the defendants’ neglect in caring for and safely maintaining this tree. In fact, the tree should have been removed long before it fell onto Kahlil and killed him. Kahlil’s parents will never get their son back but are committed to preserving his memory and making sure they do their part to raise awareness about tree safety so this never happens to another family again.”
On Friday, February 26, 2021, Kahlil was enjoying his fourth day of work at Color Genomics in Burlingame, California where he was helping provide COVID-19 testing to patients and test sites. Near the end of his workday, Kahlil and a coworker exited the building at 863 Mitten Road to head to the main office for a meeting. As they were walking to the meeting, the roots of a diseased and poorly maintained Brazilian Peppertree suddenly snapped from underground, causing the nearly 30-foot tree to violently collapse onto Kahlil’s body before he had a chance to escape. His coworker immediately turned around when she heard the sound of the tree cracking, but she could not see Kahlil. She screamed his name, saw his clothing beneath the branches of the fallen tree and ran toward him only to discover he was stuck under a large branch. She immediately yelled for help and tried to lift the tree but, even with the assistance of two other coworkers, the tree was too heavy. Kahlil remained unresponsive, pinned beneath a large branch of the fallen tree. Police arrived within minutes of the incident but it was already too late, Kahlil was pronounced dead at the scene.
As alleged in the complaint, the tree was in a dangerous condition at the time of the incident due to several factors: 1) The tree was planted on bay fill, which is soil that is too shallow and did not allow the roots to grow deep enough into the ground. 2) The tree was planted too close in proximity to the tree next to it, preventing it from growing evenly because the canopy of the tree next to it was interfering with the airspace. 3) The tree had been in obvious decline since at least May 2019, with severe thinning of foliage and failure to produce fruit since 2015. 4) The tree experienced a severe disturbance of its roots and soil in 2020 when a large fire water main was installed within meters. 5) Several roots of the tree were cut recently, prior to the tree’s failure. Most of the other roots were diseased and/or decayed.
Plaintiffs are seeking general and special wrongful death damages from Defendants.