After a particularly dry spring, farmer Duffy was concerned about wildfires spreading among the gorse that grew abundantly on his land. He therefore decided to carry out a controlled burn of a small field to remove gorse which he thought would be susceptible to wildfire and to prepare the field for cultivation. Alice, Bob and Carol were rambunctious ten year olds who often played on a large wooden horse which built by Duffy’s wife and was located in another field on Duffy’s land. The wooden horse was surrounded by gorse on all sides. Duffy always chased the children off his land when he saw them, but on the day in question he could not hear or see the children as they were at a distance of 200 yards from him and his view of them was obscured by vegetation. At the same time, Levi, a local artist, was on Duffy’s land quietly making sketches of the landscape, situated at a distance of 100 yards from Duffy and at a distance of 200 yards from the children and the wooden horse. Levi saw that Duffy was burning vegetation on his land but he did not see the children playing on the wooden horse. Levi absentmindedly flicked a cigar butt into gorse before seeking out a better view of the land. When he reached higher ground, Levi turned around to suddenly see that wildfire was spreading throughout Duffy’s land. By then he could see the children surrounded by the fire, however, as he had no permission to be on the land he decided to quickly leave without telling anyone.

Felicity, mother of Alice and Bob, knew the children often played on the wooden horse. She looked out the front window of her home one mile away and saw smoke rising from Duffy’s land. She jumped in her car and raced to Duffy’s farm where she feared her children were playing.

Benedict, a postman delivering mail, was driving past Duffy’s farm when he saw the children in the adjacent field standing on top of the horse and screaming as flames engulfed everything around them. The children looked to be in great peril and Benedict decided to try and save them. He got out of his van and entered Duffy’s land. However, he did not notice the ‘Bull Keep out” sign on the gate, and when he entered the field between the road and the children he was gored and trampled by one of Duffy’s bulls.

Soon after, Felicity arrived at the scene. Benedict had just crawled back to his van and when Felicity saw him there he said to her, “I’m sorry, I could not save the children,” before passing out. Because of the scale of the fire and smoke by that time, Felicity could not see or hear Alice, Bob or Carol.

The children were eventually rescued by firefighters unharmed. Felicity complains that she is suffering from nervous shock which has led her to take time off work. Benedict suffered a fractured scapula and clavicle and cerebral concussion. Since the accident, Benedict has been depressed and has not been able to return to work.

Experts cannot say whether Duffy’s controlled fire or Levi’s discarded cigar started the wildfire, but they can state with certainty that both actions made the fire more likely, and that once the gorse caught fire it spread quickly.

Levi is indigent. Advise Felicity and Benedict.

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