State Supreme Court: Family of boy killed by bear can sue

Nov 23 2010 - 11:39pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- The family of a Utah boy killed by a black bear can move forward with its lawsuit that contends the state didn't do enough to warn them to steer clear of the area where the bear had been seen earlier, the Utah Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The court's ruling held that the state isn't immune from a lawsuit in the death of 11-year-old Samuel Ives, who was pulled from his tent and mauled by a bear in American Fork Canyon on Father's Day in 2007.

A state judge last year dismissed a negligence suit against the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, saying the state was immune from such lawsuits.

"We still have to prove our case, but this clears the path for us to prove our case," said Jonah Orlofsky, an attorney for the Ives family.

Earlier that day, the bear had caused problems in the same area Ives was camping in.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources called it a "level 3" nuisance bear -- considered the most dangerous -- and crews set out to find it and kill it. They weren't immediately successful but did clear the campsite of anything that might attract the bear again, state officials said.

Ives' family arrived at the campsite later that day. The attack happened that night.

The family's attorneys contend the state should have put up some kind of a warning there was a problem bear in the area.

"It's the simplest thing in the world to simply warn people about what occurred at that site," Orlofsky said.

"In this case, no warnings were given at all that the bear attacked at that campsite. Had our plaintiffs had any inkling there had been a bear attack, they wouldn't have camped there."

Ives' attorneys also contend the state should have asked the U.S. Forest Service, which owns the land, to close the site. The family also is suing that federal agency.

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