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USC Gould professor dies after tree falls on his home

Dennis Franks, a prominent attorney and adjunct at the USC Gould School of Law, died after a tree fell on his Encino home Sunday.

USC adjunct law professor Dennis Franks died Sunday after a large oak tree fell on his home, pronouncing him dead at the scene, Los Angeles Coroner’s Office and Los Angeles Fire Department told CBSLA.

Franks, 64, was in his second-floor bedroom when the tree fell on his Encino home at 11:15 p.m. He was believed to have been reading in his son’s childhood bedroom at the time, his son Kevin Franks told CBSLA.

“It is with a heavy heart that I send this message to all of you,” USC Gould School of Law Dean Andrew Guzman said in a statement. “Earlier this week, we lost a member of our own Gould Trojan family, lecturer and alumnus Dennis Franks.”

Franks graduated from USC Gould in 1983 and worked as an accomplished attorney. He worked as a legal adviser for Twentieth Century Fox Film and the Walt Disney Company for several years. He returned to USC this fall as a law lecturer.

“I know that his presence at Gould will be missed by students and colleagues alike. As a community, we extend our deepest sympathies to his family and loved ones during this difficult time,” Guzman said in the statement.

Franks’ wife and daughter were on the first floor when the tree fell, according to LAFD. They and their dog were able to exit the house safely with help from LAFD.

The oak tree was estimated to be at least 500 years old, weighing 100,000 pounds. Homeowners paid for regular maintenance of the tree, according to the LAFD, but neighbors said they saw the tree leaning as much as 30 degrees leading up to the accident.

Neighbor Tony Montero told KTLA that he told his wife the tree looked dangerous. “It was leaning directly over the house … it was probably 30 degrees,” Montero said to KTLA.

Kevin Franks told KTLA that his family followed the rules set by the city to maintain the tree, such as working with an arborist and installing chains as extra support.

“USC offers vital counseling resources for grieving students; please visit the Counseling and Mental Health website or call (213) 740-9355 (WELL). Faculty or staff in need are encouraged to reach out to the Center for Work and Family Life (CWFL) at (213) 821-0800,” Guzman said in the statement.