Trees and Fallen Fruit
Jim lived next to Dawn. On her property, Dawn maintained a peach orchard. The peach orchard was very successful due to the warm weather in the locality. Some of the limbs from Dawn’s peach trees hung over onto Jim’s property and dropped fruit. Jim thought that he would like to help himself to the peaches that fell on his property. Why shouldn’t he since he had to go to the trouble of picking them up? What are Jim’s rights?
Generally speaking, the location of the trunk of the tree determines who owns the tree. While the law is somewhat unclear, it appears that the property owner who owns a fruit or nut tree also owns any fruits and nuts which grow from the tree. Furthermore, it appears that the property owner who owns a fruit or nut tree also has the right to collect fruits or nuts which fall on neighboring property. Thus, a neighbor in Jim’s position probably has no legal right to the fruit at issue. In such circumstances, it appears that Jim must turn over any fallen fruit to Dawn. However, there is very little law on the issue and further research into local law should be conducted for a definitive answer.
What about Dawn’s right to enter onto Jim’s property to collect the fallen fruit? Here again, the law is unclear. Certainly, Jim has a right against trespass to his property, but Dawn also has a right to collect the fallen fruit.
First Things First
As an initial matter, a property owner in Jim’s position should consider talking to his neighbor. It may be that the parties can reach some agreement as to the fallen fruit. In that way, each party can take an affirmative role in remedying the problem. In the fact scenario described above, Dawn may agree to share some of the fallen fruit with her neighbor, Jim. And, Jim may agree to allow Dawn to enter onto his property for the purpose of collecting the fallen fruit.