Fourteen (14) insurance companies have filed a lawsuit against the federal government for damages resulting from the Gatlinburg wildfires in 2016.
According to court documents, the insurers are collectively seeking damages to cover claims made following the wildfire incident that occurred in November 2016.The lawsuit was filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act “for damages arising from the negligent acts or omissions on the part of employees or agents of the Department of the Interior (DOI) and/or National Park Service (NPS) in response to the Chimney Tops 2 Fire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”
The Chimney Tops 2 fire is one of several conflagrations that made up the Great Smoky Mountains wildfires which erupted in the national park in late November 2016. It was the largest of the blazes, burning more than 10,000 acres within the park and forcing the closure of the Chimney Tops Trail.
Outside the park, the fires burned about 6,000 acres. They forced the evacuation of at least 14,000 residents and tourists and led to the damage or destruction of more than 2,000 buildings.
Court documents indicate that the insurers are seeking at least $200 million in damages.
The insurers maintain in their filing that claims arose due to “certain actions, omissions, and otherwise negligent conduct” by employees of the DOI or the NPS which resulted in “substantial property losses.”
The lawsuit was filed early last week, WATE 6 reported. NPS was approached for a statement on the matter, and a representative told WATE 6 that, by policy, the agency does not comment on active litigation.
A previous federal lawsuit was filed in May 2018 against the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on behalf of victims seeking damages. That lawsuit claimed that the park’s officials failed to warn neighboring residents in time about the fire risk, even as the wildfire burned for five days before leaving park grounds.