Finally a sensible court decision on personal responsibility and native wildlife-

Most folks remember Utah only fatal bear attack back in 2007. It was in the Wasatch Mountains east of Provo. The family has sued both the federal courts and the state. The federal judge ruled the Forest Service was 65% responsible for the attack, but now the state judge has a ruling beneficial to bears. Judge David Mortensen ruled that a bear is “a natural condition of the land.” The state is immune from lawsuits for injury that comes from the natural conditions on public owned lands.

It’s too bad the federal judge bought the argument that the Forest Service was somehow responisble for the bear that showed up and killed  the 12 year old boy at Timpooneke Campground in June 2007.

If governments become responsible for bear injuries, they could also become responsible for injuries by deer, elk, moose, even badgers, coyotes and rodent bites.

Here is the story from the Salt Lake Tribune. State court judge dismisses bear-attack wrongful death lawsuit.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is past President of the Western Watersheds Project.

5 Responses to Utah court judge dismisses 2007 bear-attack “wrongful death” lawsuit

  1. avatar jon says:

    This is GREAT news.

    • avatar JB says:

      Agreed. It was a tragedy for the family–one that gives me shudders. But the outcome of this case is good for wildlife.

  2. avatar Wolfy says:

    Little known fact: some states pay out millions of dollars every year in Tort claims filed for persons injured or killed in deer/vehicle accidents or crop losses to deer. Here in Michigan, the state has (quietly) accepted deer damage, injury, and death as a state resposibility.

    • avatar Nancy says:

      Listened to a guy on the news the other night (the story was about insurance claims) who said he’d recently hit his second deer “hard to avoid them when your driving 70 mph” Well duh??
      Wonder if it would help to have a “dusk to dawn” reduction in the speed limit in states where there are high numbers of collisions w/wildlife?

  3. I like that phrase “a natural condition of the land” and I hope bears remain part of that natural condition for a long long time.


October 2011


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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