Tree Falls on SUV

(WSVN) - She is like many people. Her paycheck just covers her bills. Then a dead rotten tree fell on her car. Her apartment complex refused to pay for the repairs — and her problems started piling up, which is why she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Mention children, and watch Colette’s face.

Colette Burton: “Yes.”

Colette takes care of kids who don’t have a safe home to live in.

Colette Burton: “It’s rewarding, because I know that I am changing lives and making a difference.”

Work is rewarding. Coming home is frustrating.

Colette Burton: “Coming home and seeing urine and feces in the hall. The common areas alone are never taken care of.”

Colette lives at Cypress Grove in Lauderhill, an enormous complex named because of all the cypress trees.

And, as Colette learned, not exactly healthy cypress trees.

Colette Burton: “Got out of the car, I shut the door, I took a few steps, and then the tree fell.”

Colette had just pulled in when the tree fell on her SUV.

Colette Burton: “The front windshield was taken out, and then around the top of the windshield it’s mangled, and there’s a dent.”

She called the police to document the damage. An officer came out.

Colette Burton: “And the officer tells me, ‘Oh, the tree is rotten. Look.’ He put his boot on the tree, and his foot went through the tree. He was like, ‘If you look in the inside of the tree, the tree is hollow on the inside. It’s dead.'”

Clearly a tree that had been dead for a while.

Colette then went to the Cypress Grove management office.

Colette Burton: “The assistant property manager told me they weren’t going to fix my car because it wasn’t their responsibility. He also went on to say, ‘Well, this is Cypress Grove. What do you expect?'”

Colette said she didn’t expect their cypress tree to rot and fall on her car, and she did expect them to pay her $1,000 insurance deductible and her rental car, ’cause Colette doesn’t have that money.

Colette Burton: “It’s stressful. It’s truly stressful. You’re trying to figure out how you are going to pay all of these bills.”

Well, this is the tree that fell on this car. Howard, legally, who has to pay for the repairs?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Landowners have to keep their property in a safe condition. If a tree is dead or rotten, falls and causes damage, the property owner has to pay for any repairs. If they refuse, take them to small claims court where a judge will take care of them.”

You’ve heard about Americans who are just one missed paycheck away from financial ruin? As we discovered, that’s Colette.

Colette Burton: “I just need help, and they’re not willing to help me at this point.”

I talked to Cypress Grove management and the listed owner. They ignored my requests to at least pay the $1,000 insurance deductible.

It took several weeks for her car to be repaired. During that time, Colette spent most of her paycheck on a rental car to get to work.

Colette Burton: “I’ve been surviving off ramen noodles, ’cause I just don’t have it.”

Then, when her car was repaired and ready to be picked up, Colette didn’t have the $1,000 insurance deductible. Her car was put in storage. Those fees have been added, raising the cost from $1,000 to $2,200.

It got worse. Colette missed two car payments, and her vehicle was repossessed. She used her paycheck to make the back payments, but now she doesn’t have the money for the repo fee.

Colette Burton: “And every time I turn around, I am getting hit with something. Everything transpired due to the tree falling on my car. I was fine before all of this.”

When you live paycheck to paycheck, just one falling tree can bring everything crashing down.

Colette Burton: “I’m like biting back the tears, because I feel like nobody understands.”

Colette told me none of her friends or family members have the $3,000 or $4,000 to loan her to get out of this mess. She said most live paycheck to paycheck like her.

Her last option? She started a GoFundMe page. If you have a few dollars to help a person with a wonderful heart get out of this heartbreaking mess, click here: http://www.gofundme.com/f/my-series-of-misfortunate-events.

It doesn’t need to be said how much Colette would appreciate it.

Bad breaks crushing you? Ready to branch out and let us lumber in? Share your story with us, and discover, with the help of South Floridians, your next day might be a great day.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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