Georgia Court Considers Case Involving Car Accident Allegedly Caused by Defendant’s Controlled Burn

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion concerning a car accident case in which the plaintiff claimed he was injured after a controlled burn was negligently executed. The plaintiff filed a personal injury suit against a corporation after a truck in which he was riding as a passenger collided with a fallen power cable in the road.

The plaintiff alleged that the corporation, which operated a quail hunting reserve, was negligent in conducting the controlled burn on its property. The corporation conducted controlled burns each spring to prevent hazards and improve quail habitats.

Evidently, shortly after the defendant initiated a controlled burn, an employee came across a burning area near a power pole. The employee believed that the fire had spread from the controlled burn area and extinguished it. The next morning, the plaintiff, a passenger in a truck, came across a wire hanging across the road. The wire caught the back of the truck and caused the driver to lose control, resulting in an accident.

As it turns out, the power pole had burned down, and the wire was left hanging. The plaintiff maintained that the defendant company was negligent in executing the controlled burn. However, the defendant argued that it was not liable because it was protected under the Prescribed Burning Act.

The Prescribed Burning Act

Prescribed burning is the controlled burning of land, and is meant to accomplish a planned land management objective or to mitigate wildfires. Prescribed burns generally require the participation of experienced professionals as well as burn authorization from the state. The Prescribed Burning Act provides the rules and regulations concerning prescribed burns. Under OCGA § 12-6-148, prescribed burning must be conducted by an individual with previous burning experience or training and that person must be present “until the fire is adequately confined to reasonably prevent escape of the fire from the area intended to be burned.”

Under OCGA § 12-4-168 (b), a property owner is not liable for damages or injury caused by an authorized prescribed burn “unless it is proven that there was gross negligence in starting, controlling, or completing the burn.”

The Court’s Decision

The court concluded that the corporation’s employees ensured that the fire was adequately confined before leaving the area, because they refreshed the firebreaks and patrolled the area to put out any hot spots before they left.

Also, the court found the corporation was not grossly negligent. It explained gross negligence means the failure to exercise slight diligence, or the diligence that even an inattentive person would take. The court found that even if the controlled burn caused the wire to fall, that was not enough to find the corporation’s employees were grossly negligent. The court noted that the employee took several precautions, and therefore, the court decided the company had exercised at least slight diligence.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in any kind of Georgia accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The injury attorneys at the McAleer Law Firm can help accident victims in the Atlanta metro area evaluate their claims and advocate for them throughout the legal process. We believe that everyone should have equal access to justice, and we have compassionately and skillfully assisted our clients for over ten years. We will fight to get you the compensation you deserve in any Georgia personal injury, wrongful death, or medical malpractice case. Contact the McAleer Law Firm online or call us at 404-622-5337.

See More Posts:

Evidence of an Accident Victim’s Failure to Wear a Seatbelt Is Prohibited in Georgia Personal Injury Trials, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, October 18, 2018.

Georgia Court Rejects Defendant’s Spoliation Claim Against Personal Injury Plaintiff, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, November 14, 2018.

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