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A Hancock Park woman who said she had to go to the media to get trees removed because the roots were damaging her property to the point that she couldn’t use her sinks or toilets filed suit Monday, alleging the city failed to pay for extensive repairs.

Margaret Wendt’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges negligence, premises liability, dangerous condition of public property, trespass and nuisance. She’s seeking at least $175,000 in damages.

Wendt also is asking a judge to find responsibility in connection with the damage done by the trees, which she said forced her to join a health spa to use the facility’s showers and bathrooms. She says the ficus roots penetrated and blocked a sewer line, leaving her unable to use her sinks or flush her toilets.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office, said lawyers will review the complaint and make the appropriate response.

Wendt says she has owned her home on Larchmont Boulevard for 20 years and that during that time, the city planted ficus trees on residential parkways on both sides of the street. The roots wrapped around the sewer line serving her property, according to the plaintiff.

“The root structure of the ficus tree is one of the most invasive of all genus of trees,” according to Wendt’s complaint. “(The city) even failed to perform minimal pruning of the limbs, or create root barriers, causing the … ficus trees to grow unchecked, causing extensive damage to the … property.”

Sewage backed up into Wendt’s yard and flooded her property, according to the suit, which says the roots also lifted the sidewalk outside her home by a foot, causing pedestrians to trip and injure themselves.

Then-City Councilman Thomas LaBonge visited Wendt’s home and promised to fix the problems, but “nothing was done and the problems associated with the trees continued,” the suit states.

After Wendt did a television interview in February 2015 about the situation, the city finally agreed to take down the trees near her home, according to her court papers.

“However, (the city) failed to meet its promises and did not repair the damages to (Wendt’s) … property caused by the trees and the tree roots,” the suit alleges.

Wendt says she has spent thousands of dollars repairing the harm done by the trees.

–City News Service

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