Res Ipsa Loquitur Not Applicable in Field Fire Case.

The defendants were harvesting wheat approximately two miles downwind from the plaintiff’s farm when the field caught fire and wind quickly spread the fire such that it burned approximately 1,200 acres including the plaintiffs’ property.  The origin of the fire was not established with certainty although its likely source was from a grain cart being pulled by a tractor that was headed to unload a combine.  The plaintiff sued on a res ipsa loquitor theory and the defendants motioned for summary judgment.  The trial court granted the motion on the basis that field fires that occur during harvesting are not uncommon and cannot be said to occur in every situation due to negligence.  On appeal, the court affirmed.  The court noted that no Nebraska cases could be found involving field fires and res ipsa loquitur, but that other states had considered the situation and determined that field fires were not that uncommon and could occur without any negligence.  Thus, the element of res ipsa loquitur, that the occurrence be one that would not, in the absence of negligence, was not satisfied.  The other two elements of res ipsa – that the instrument that caused the event was under the exclusive control and management of the defendant, and that the defendant couldn’t explain how the event occurred, were not at issue.  Lamprecht v. Schluntz, 25 Neb. App. 335 (2015).