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Victims' appeal denied after federal court severs and partially dismisses Gatlinburg wildfire lawsuit

The appeal was filed after a federal judge dismissed individual claims in a lawsuit against the government over negligence during the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfires.

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — A federal judge denied a motion made by victims of the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfires to reverse a ruling after the court dismissed six individual claims in an ongoing lawsuit filed against the U.S. government over negligence. 

U.S. District Court Judge Ronnie Greer partially dismissed the lawsuit in February as it concerned claims made by individual victims of the fire, saying they failed to present their negligent failure-to-warn claim in accordance with the Federal Tort Claims Act. According to Greer, the initial individual lawsuits did not include information about a failure to warn or facts related to the claim.

The cases in the lawsuit made by insurance companies against the federal government were not dismissed and allowed to move forward.

The victims appealed the decision in March, arguing the court made a clear error of law by holding the notice requirement in the FTCA was jurisdiction, and that the denial of their motion would permit manifest injustice. 

Greer said the arguments were not successful and denied the motion.

The individual claims included victim Michael Reed, who lost his wife and two daughters in the fire, as well as Brittany Anculle, Brittany Adkins, James Carl Vance, Jackie Barnes, and Paul Abbott.

The victims had argued the government did receive notice of the failure to warn claims, along with written documentation that advised attorneys their claims were sufficient. 

The fire started in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and spread to Gatlinburg and other parts of Sevier County by high winds on the night of Nov. 28, 2016. Fourteen people were killed, more than 190 were injured and more than 2,500 buildings were destroyed.  

 

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