Thursday, May 5, 2011

Judge awards $1.9M to family of boy killed by bear

On Tuesday of this week a federal judge awarded nearly $2 million to the family of Samuel Ives, an 11-year-old boy killed in 2007 by a black bear in the American Fork Canyon near Salt Lake City, Utah. The boy was dragged from his tent and mauled by a bear on the night of June 17, 2007.

Ives’s mother and stepfather contend that their son was killed due to negligence on the part of the U.S. Forest Service. The bear that killed Sam had attacked another man 12 hours prior at the same campsite where Ives and his family were staying. According to the lawsuit, Forest officials searched for the bear after its first attack, but were unable to find it. Unfortunately they failed to issue a warning to other campers staying at the same campground.

The U.S. District Judge found that both federal and state government agencies, including the Forest Service, were liable for Ives’s death. The judge found the Forest Service to be 65% at fault for failing to warn the public about the potential safety risks of camping in the area. The Division of Wildlife Resources was found to be at 25% fault for its lack of communication with the Forest Service, and the family was deemed to be 10% at fault for leaving food wrappers and trash in their tent.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the Forest Service was negligent to the tune of $2 million dollars? If these are punitive damages, who do they punish? Ultimately it is we tax payers who will be writing this check. Moreover, does this set a precedent where any accident, or anything that could potentially go wrong, become the focus of a lawsuit aimed towards national and state parks? Just as one example - does this mean that if there's snow on the ground, or if it's raining, that park rangers have a duty to warn all hikers that trails might be slippery?



Lori said...

I have to say I'm a little skeptical of the government/park writing a check for this amount. As you say, it seems like a slippery slope....but then again, if it were my child, I might feel differently.

Anonymous said...

Were I on the jury, I would have found the family 100% at fault for having food or food products in their tent. The notion that the Forest Service, or any other governmental agency, bore any fault is reliant upon the presumption that a warning would have altered the result. This family had food in their tents. Assuming a warning existed, do you think they would have paid it any heed? In other words, do you really believe they wouldn't have camped if they had known about bear activity? This is BS.

The Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

Anon - you make some excellent points. I wonder if there was anyone on the jury that had a lot of experience camping and backpacking in bear country. Any bear behavior experts on the jury? Would it have made a difference in the outcome?

My Life Outdoors said...

I'm not in favor of lawsuits. But had I been warned of recent bear attack in the area I might choose a different campsite in a different part of the park. I don't think the gov should pay...but I think they should have issued a warning. 12 hours is plenty of time to do so. if we find it necessary to kill bears that attack humans (because they might do it again) then I think it's necessary to warn people when we can't find those bears. How do we know the family didn't try to bear proof their food and simply over looked a few items. You can't tell me you have never forgotten about one or more items of food. Especially an 11 year old are you going to expect him to remember all the food he brought? And what if the family told him not to have food in the tent but he decided to sneak a late night snack? Can you expect an 11 year old boy to follow proper bear safety? And then...had he been warned...maybe he would have out of fear. I think there is more to this situation then we know.

Stephania Andrade said...

Receiving millions will not bring their child back. What needs to happen from this event is for people to become more aware of the necessary precautions when traveling in the wild. It was't anyone's fault in particular, it was a lack of information given/researched.