Was this REALLY an act of God?

A tree is blown down on top of Emma Robbins' Land Rover outside Lutton St Nicholas Primary School.
A tree is blown down on top of Emma Robbins' Land Rover outside Lutton St Nicholas Primary School.
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A Sutton Bridge mum is nearly £500 out of pocket after a council denied responsibility for a tree falling down onto her vehicle outside a school.

Emma Robbins was lucky to escape uninjured when strong winds blew a tree down onto her Land Rover outside Lutton St Nicholas Primary School while her daughter Lily (9) was still inside. The freak accident happened on February 12, a day when South Holland was battered by 60 mph winds which caused power cuts and brought trees and branches down across the area.

But Emma claims Lincolnshire County Council should have known the tree was unsafe as the school was warned weeks before the accident about “cracking and creaking noises” heard by people living nearby.

“Me and my husband went to pick up Lily from school and we were sat in the Land Rover waiting for her to come out,” Emma said.

“There were quite high winds and then there was a crack before the tree fell down across the back of the vehicle.

“I was able to get out on the driver’s side of the vehicle before my husband did the same and I sat on the grass before a neighbour took me into her house and made me some coffee.

“I was very shaken because I thought about what could have happened if my daughter wasn’t in school at the time of the accident.”

Emma’s Land Rover was written off in the accident, leaving her with a £475 insurance bill and without a car for more than two months.

“After the accident, we contacted the insurer who paid out for the Land Rover and we were led to believe the council would reimburse us for the excess and change over of insurance to the new vehicle,” Emma said.

“But the council said it was an act of God and that it wouldn’t pay us the £475 we asked for which has left us in financial difficulty and extremely upset.

“The school had been told weeks before that the tree was unsafe and a number of tree reports were done after which the council was asked if the tree could come down.

“I’m disgusted with the council as well because we sent the claim form off in March but didn’t hear anything until May.”

In a letter to Emma seen by the Free Press, the county council’s legal officer said the accident was an act of God defined as “an overwhelming event which causes damage exclusively by natural forces whose effects could not possibly be prevented by the exercise of reasonable care and foresight”.

But Emma said: “How can they say it was an act of God as if God would cause a tree to fall down on our vehicle? Other parents assumed the council would pay compensation because they heard a speech by the Prime Minister at the time of the floods and storms where he said councils would help those people affected.

“We were without a vehicle for two-and-a-half months, relying on friends and taxis to take our daughter to school.

“We weren’t hurt in the accident and we now have a vehicle with the same value as the Land Rover we had before.

“All we’re asking for is the council to reimburse us for the excess on the insurance and the cost of changing our insurance over to our new vehicle.”

Manjit Sidhu of the council’s legal services department said: “No professional opinion has concluded that the tree was unsafe.

“We are advised that the school carried out a safety check on all its trees a few years ago as part of their health and safety checks and none were deemed unsafe.

“Following the incident when a part of the tree fell over, it was inspected and found to have been in a reasonable condition and in no way unsafe. “We understand the school head had one enquiry from a parent about the tree but was happy with the explanation and professional opinion that the tree was in a reasonable condition.

“This was an unfortunate accident which happened in a freak storm when other healthy trees in the area also fell.

“We are happy to review the matter if Mrs Robbins can provide all the documents that would support her claim.”