Six years ago, Sam Ives was dragged out of his tent by a bear and killed while on a family camping trip in American Fork. Now the Utah Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the boy's family saying more could have been done to prevent the death.
On Father's Day, 2007, Ives went with his mother, Rebecca Ives, and stepfather, Tim Mulvey, to a campsite in American Fork Canyon. In a lawsuit against the Division of Wildlife Resources initially filed in 2008, Ives' family alleged that he died as a result of government negligence because another camp site had been attacked the day before and officials did nothing to warn other campers in the area. That lawsuit was thrown out twice by district court judges, once in 2009 and once in 2011, both saying that the State was immune from prosecution.
In a 19-page-ruling released Friday afternoon, the Utah Supreme Court overturned the latest district court's argument that the State was immune because the bear was a natural element on the land and that they can't be held responsible for naturally occurring events. In the decision it reads, "to be a natural condition on the land, the condition must be topographical in nature... We accordingly exclude wildlife for the natural condition exception because wildlife -- like a gust of wind -- is not topographical in nature." The decision states that things like rivers, snowpack and avalanche's are topographical in nature.
The case will now be returned to the district court for further proceedings.
In May of 2011 a federal judge awarded the family $1.9 million in a separate lawsuit against the U.S. government and the U.S. Forest Service.