Dual Trial Wins in Wildfire Litigation

September 23, 2021
Firm News

We secured trial court victories in two consolidated cases relating to the 2016 wildfire that destroyed thousands of acres of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Park) in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Numerous insurance companies filed actions against our client, a tree service company, alleging hazardous trees fell on power lines causing two spot fires outside of the Park on the night of the Gatlinburg Fires. They sought approximately $45 million in negligence and nuisance claims.

Serving as the lead lawyer, Jessie Zeigler succeeded in consolidating nine cases into two cases before two judges in the same court. She obtained summary judgment on the first consolidated case in fall 2020, where the court agreed that as a matter of law, plaintiffs could not meet their burden of showing that our client had a duty to inspect the trees at issue, which were outside of the right of way they contracted to trim. The judge on the second consolidated case also granted summary judgment in June 2021 on the same grounds.

We will continue to work to uphold these judgments as the plaintiffs pursue an appeal. In addition to Jessie, the Bass, Berry & Sims team includes Kathryn Walker, Sara Morgan, and Danielle Irvine.