(CN) – The family of a boy who was killed by a black bear on a Father’s Day camping trip can sue the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources for failing to warn campers about the bear, the state Supreme Court ruled.
A camper reported that a bear had raided his coolers and ripped open his tent while camping in American Fork Canyon. DWR agents searched for the bear throughout the day in an attempt to kill it. Failing to find the bear, they resolved to try again the next day.
However, they did not warn potential users of the campsite about the bear sighting, nor did they ask the U.S. Forest Service to close the campsite.
Later that night, the bear attacked and killed 11-year-old Samuel Ives while he was sleeping in his tent.
Ives’ family sued the DWR for negligence.
The trial court accepted the DWR’s argument that it is protected by the state’s Governmental Immunity Act, but the state high court reversed.
“Government entities, like the state here, may not look to the authority of the United States to grant or revoke approval to camp on federally-controlled lands and import provisions of the Governmental Immunity Act at their pleasure to shield themselves from claims of negligence,” Justice Ronald Nehring ruled, remanding the case for trial.