Utah AGO: State not liable for boy's mauling death

By Chris Rizo | May 9, 2008

Mark Shurtleff

PROVO, Utah (Legal Newsline)-The Utah attorney general's office says the state is not responsible for the death of Sam Ives, an 11-year-old boy who was fatally mauled at a Utah campground last year by a black bear.

The boy's parents are seeking more than $2 million from state and federal wildlife officials. But Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's office says the Utah Governmental Immunity Act protects the state from liability.

Rebecca Ives his mother, and Tim Mulvey, his stepfather, claim that the state failed to warn them that the same bear that ripped their son from a tent had also terrorized other campers earlier in the day at a camp area above the Timpooneke Campground in Utah's American Fork Canyon.

The couple, in two wrongful death lawsuits filed last month, claim that the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the U.S. Forest Service are responsible for the death of their son because they did not post warning signs or take other actions.

They say there were no warnings cautioning campers that there was a level III animal on the loose, meaning it posed a danger to the public. They allege that since the bear was unable to be found after terrorizing campers earlier in the day, campers should have been notified and the campground closed.

They seek at least $2 million in damages from the federal government and at least $100,000 from the state. There are two lawsuits since the campground is on federal land, while the state is responsible for wildlife management.

In their complaint, Mulvey and Ives say their family pitched their tent "with no knowledge or warning of the bear incident and decisions made by the agents of the USDA Forest Service about the Level III bear that had occurred that very morning."

The family is represented by Sarah Young of the Provo, Utah, law firm Young, Kester & Petro.

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