Utah judge dismisses bear-attack wrongful death lawsuit
A 4th District Court judge has dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of a 12-year-old boy who was killed by a bear while camping four years ago in the Timpanogos mountain area.
Sam Ives was killed by a black bear who entered the family's campsite that was set up a mile from the Timpooneke Campground in June 2007.
His parents filed the civil lawsuit against the State of Utah, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and others in 2008, saying they failed to warn people of a dangerous bear in the area, which had attacked other campers.
But Judge David Mortensen ruled on the side of the state, which argued the case should be thrown out because "there is no specific duty owed to the plaintiffs, and further, even if there were a duty, the state is immunized from suit under the 'natural condition' exception in the Governmental Immunity Act."
Mortensen sided with the state, saying in his written decision: "This court also concludes that a bear is a natural condition on the land and thus even assuming the state has duty, the state is immunized from suit."
Under state law, Mortensen said, the state is immune when a plaintiff's injury arises out of, in connection with, or results from any natural condition on publicly owned or controlled lands.
"In the present case, a bear is a natural condition of the land," said Mortensen in his decision, which was filed Friday.
In May, a federal judge awarded the family $1.95 million in damages. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball said the U.S. Forest Service was required to warn the family that a dangerous animal was on the loose in the canyon after reports of a bear had opened coolers and slashed through a tent in the area earlier that day.
The Ives family could have been entitled to as much as $3 million. But was awarded the lesser amount because Kimball found the Forest Service to be only 65 percent responsible.