This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The family of an 11-year-old Pleasant Grove boy fatally mauled in a 2007 bear attack is asking for $2 million from the U.S. Forest Service in a six-day trial scheduled to start Monday in U.S. District Court.
Sam Ives was camping with his mother, stepfather and half-brother in a campground above the Timpanooke Recreation Area on June 17, 2007, when a bear sliced through his tent, pulled him out and killed him. Earlier that day, the bear had attacked another group of campers, and authorities were unsuccessful in finding the bear.
The family's attorneys are expected to argue that the Forest Service and the state's Division of Wildlife Resources had a duty to warn the family there was a dangerous bear in the area and that it had attacked the site at which they camped. They also believe the campground should have been closed until the bear was killed.
In the earlier attack, the black bear raided coolers and tore open a tent, but the campers escaped unharmed. The bear was hunted and killed after Sam's attack.
Attorneys in the federal case are expected to argue the Forest Service is immune from litigation connected to the bear attack. Their arguments follow arguments from attorneys in state court, who have contended the government has a duty to protect the public from being attacked by dangerous wildlife, but that duty does not mean the state can be held responsible for individuals who are attacked by bears or other vicious wildlife.
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball will announce a ruling after the trial concludes. The case is a civil case and a jury will not be used.
In federal court last year, government lawyers tried to get the suit thrown out on grounds that there was no legal requirement to post notices of bear activity at the campground or to close it.
But Kimball ruled that Forest Service officials knew there was a dangerous bear in the area, negating their claims for immunity, and moving the case forward to trial.
The family also has a wrongful death lawsuit filed in the state's 4th District Court, which the Utah Supreme Court revived in November when ruling the family can sue the state for not warning them that the bear had ravaged the campsite before it attacked Sam.
The family is seeking $550,000 from the state. A status conference in the family's state case is scheduled on March 25 before 4th District Judge David Mortensen.