November 24, 2017

Law Suit: Company Was Negligent and Liable for Coyote Attack

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

coyotecemeteryFor awhile now I have reported on certain incidences of law suits against the government claiming they are liable when large predators attack people. Last month I put together an article highlighting some of the events that have occurred that have resulted in lawsuits being filed or the threat of such.

Perhaps the most prominent of all these stories happened in 2007 when Sam Ives, while camping with his parents in the Uinta National Forest. Ives was hauled from his tent in the middle of the night by a black bear [this was edited to correct an error stating the bear was a grizzly], dragged into the forest and was killed. See the details here.

As tragic as that story is of itself, perhaps the real tragedy came when officials did not alert this family that the campground had been closed due to the presence of this bear. The family has filed a lawsuit claiming that because of the circumstances, the employees of the government were negligent in doing their jobs.

There is a bit more to this than a mere claim of negligence. In a court appeal, Francis v. State of Utah, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that wildlife are not a “natural condition of the land.” What this essentially means is that most states have some kind of immunity clause or law that protects the governments from lawsuits of this kind. In Utah, that immunity clause happens to contain language dealing with “natural conditions of the land.” The immunity applies, according the Utah Supreme Court, on things that are considered “natural” and evidently grizzly bears and other wildlife are not considered “natural.” What is not clear is exactly why but the notion that wildlife is “managed” and/or “protected” probably has a lot to do with it.

If that be the case, then is their liability in existence when all wildlife is “managed” and “protected?”

The horrors for some people that have existed since the introduction of wolves into the Greater Yellowstone area, portions of Central Idaho, New Mexico and Arizona, have brought much debate about whether or not Government is liable for property damage, economic damage and personal injury or the dreaded revelation of a wolf attack resulting in the death of a human.

The Utah case may set a precedent in this regard. Simply that the Utah Supreme Court has determined that wildlife are not a “natural condition of the land,” is it stretching the truth at all to assume that human transplanted wildlife, i.e. vicious predators like wolves and grizzly bears, would qualify as an expansion of that liability?

In some cases for some people, it would seem this immunity issue and how it applies to wildlife, would be a good thing, but I’m not so sure it will for most. Take for example a woman in California who is suing the owners of cemetery plot because while she was visiting her mother’s grave, she was attacked by a coyote. She is claiming, “various severe and permanent injuries.” She claims the company was negligent and liable.

Is the company liable for a coyote attack? Not knowing all the laws governing a person’s right to protection, including the ability of the cemetery company to ensure coyotes won’t attack customers, it is difficult to understand where any liability might start in this case. What are all the extenuating circumstances leading up to the attack? If it were possible to bring suit against a private company for a wild animal attack, isn’t it just as plausible to claim that the government, whose responsibility it is to “manage” wildlife, is more responsible than the cemetery company? One would think so, but then we have to deal with these government immunity laws.

What a can of worms!

I am of the opinion that government immunity should not prevail when, in cases like Sam Ives, negligence appears to have played a role in the young man’s death. Outright negligence by any person or organization should never be protected. I have often wondered if the employees who knew Sam Ives and his family went into that campground after it had been closed and did nothing about it, would have acted and reacted differently if they knew they would be held liable?

It will be interesting to watch to see if this unfolds further and to see if it will have any impact on how wildlife is managed, species that are protected and further plans for introducing large predators into a landscape populated by humans.

  • Bobalee

    Interesting points to consider.
    Your previous article regarding this incident is correct in saying that it was a black bear that killed Sam Ives. There are no grizzlies in the Uinta Mountains.

    Montana considers wildlife to be part of the natural landscape.

    Steve Bullock, Montana Governor, quoted the following when he vetoed SB 256 last spring:
    “Montana is one of the few areas in the nation where wild game abounds. It is regarded as one of the greatest of the state’s natural resources, as well as the chief attraction for visitors. Wild game existed here long before the coming of man. One who acquires property in Montana does so with notice and knowledge of the presence of wild game and presumably is cognizant of its natural habits. Wild game does not possess the power to distinguish between fructus naturales and fructus industriales, and cannot like domestic animals be controlled through an owner. Accordingly, a property owner in this state must recognize the fact that there may be some injury to property or inconvenience from wild game for which there is no recourse.” State of Montana v. Rathbone, 110 MT 225, 242 (1940).

    • TRemington

      That’s nice. However, do you happen to know what the immunity laws are regarding Montana and wildlife? A governor making this statement may be his opinion as to why he vetoed that particular bill, but was it actually supported by existing laws in Montana spelling out immunity and wild animals?

      I don’t have the answers and presently I don’t have the time to look it up. I may eventually.

      Thank you for point out my error in calling the bear in this article that killed Sam Ives a grizzly instead of black. I’ll change that.

    • Chandie Bartell

      Yes, but how does that apply to activist employees within the USFWS that broke the ESA when transplanting (un-natural) wolves from Canada to the NRM “introduction” areas in Central Idaho and YNP, when we had documented populations of “recovering” wolves in those areas?

      • Bobalee


        With respect to “your POINT here is self-serving”: I made no point and offered no opinion other than that it was interesting; I only stated facts.

        I don’t know the particulars of the case and don’t intend to spend a lot of time looking. There are more details on the June 19, 2007:

        You can take the discussion of wolf genetics up with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife:
        “Are the wolves in Oregon a different subspecies than the wolves originally here?

        No. The wolves in Oregon today are part of the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population. They are descendants of wolves
        originally captured in Canada and released in Yellowstone National Park and Idaho in the mid-1990s. Historical evidence and wolf specimens show wolves from the Canadian and northern U.S. Rockies, interior British Columbia, Northwest
        Territories, and nearly all of Alaska are closely related. According to taxonomists, they belong to a single subspecies known as Canis lupus occidentalis and form a single population across the Rocky Mountains of the northern U.S. and southern Canada.

        Wolves originating from the region described above have proven to be genetically and morphologically similar. For example, of
        the wolves harvested during the 2009 hunting seasons, adults from Montana weighed an average of 97 lbs with a maximum of 117 lbs, and adults from Idaho weighed an average of 101 lbs with a maximum of about 130 lbs. These weights are similar to the sizes of wolves that occurred in these states in the 1800s and early 1900s. While the sample size is very small, the weights of wolves that have returned to Oregon or been born here in the last few years are similar, with the highest weight recorded 115 lbs.”

        • Chandie Bartell

          So you are saying this “study” is inaccurate? You do realize IDFG lied about our recovering wolves, and that information and testimony has been provided MANY times on here, with the Tim Kemery Story, as well as other sources such as Wolves of Central Idaho.

          DNA Studies – Smaller Native Wolves Existed in Northern Rockies before Canadian Wolf Transplant

          Barb, Explain why YOU won’t accept this research either.

          • Idaho_Roper

            She doesn’t accept anything that doesn’t suit her agenda, so I know your question must have been rhetorical.

          • GoldDust

            The truth is what these “fact” cherry picking leftist soviet environmentalist fanatics say it is even though the facts indicate otherwise.

        • TRemington

          The information you have provided by the state of Oregon does not agree with historical data. In addition, you have shown to me in your history of commenting that you take everything that is published by any government agency as the truth as it seems the majority of your efforts to substantiate any claims comes from links to only government resources.

          Of course that’s your choice to do that although I fail to come up with ANY reason to believe one word of government propaganda.

          I spent a great deal of time pointing out in the writings of Teddy Roosevelt about what kinds of wolves existed where in his travels out West. His writings seem more in line with Smithsonian and contrary to what Oregon is propagating.

          • Bobalee

            Tom Remington

            I used the two links you gave to Teddy Roosevelt’s descriptions of wolves which you gave in: Skinny Moose BBB 09/2/12

            “The difference even among the wolves of different
            sections of OUR OWN COUNTRY (I added the caps) is very notable. It may be true that the species as a whole is rather weaker and less ferocious than the European wolf; but it is certainly not true of the wolves of certain localities. The great timber wolf of the central and northern chains of the Rockies and coast ranges is in every way a more formidable creature than the
            buffalo wolf of the plains, although they intergrade. The skins and skulls of the wolves of north-western Montana and Washington which I have seen were quite as large and showed quite as stout claws and teeth as the skins and skulls of Russian and Scandinavian wolves, and I believe that these great timber wolves are in every way as formidable as their Old World kinsfolk.

            A full-grown dog-wolf of the northern Rockies, in exceptional instances, reaches a height of thirty-two
            inches and a weight of 130 pounds; a big buffalo wolf of the upper Missouri stands thirty or thirty-one inches at the shoulder and weighs about 110 pounds. A Texas wolf may not reach over eighty pounds. The bitch-wolves are smaller; and moreover there is often great variation even in the wolves of closely neighboring localities.”

            “I have never seen a dog of this variety which I would
            esteem a match single-handed for one of the huge timber wolves of western Montana.”

            “I have seen wolves from Texas and New Mexico which
            were undersized, slim animals with rather small tusks, in no way to be compared to the long-toothed giants of their race that dwell in the heavily timbered mountains of the Northwest and in the far North.”

            “These northern Rocky Mountain wolves are
            most formidable beasts” in speaking about wolves near Flathead Lake, Montana in reference to their killing grizzlies.


          • TRemington

            And so you used information I posted. Thank you. It is unfortunate that you are seemingly incapable of following a conversation and understanding it.

            I will repeat again, the information provided by OREGON fish and game, does not agree with historic accounts of which wolves were where and when.

            And I really don’t know why I’m having this conversation because I actually put very little stock in differences and/or specie/subspecies of wolves.

            Taxonomy is far too complicated to fully understand and yet it shouldn’t be left out of discussions about wolf subspecies.

            I am finished with any further commenting on this topic.

        • Idaho_Roper

          You provide more propaganda that has already been shown to be incorrect. Rewriting the ‘science’ to ‘fit your agenda’ does not make such actions or agenda valid.

          Do you realize how many species are. and I quote your provided propaganda, “close” in relationship to each other.

          Typical of your type you are consumed with hypocrisy. When convenient you want to lump, when it doesn’t fit your agenda you want to break species down to the slightest minutia. Give me a break.

          • GoldDust

            Just another dumb old broad with no back country experiences nor real knowledge of wildlife’s migratory movements in Idaho and likely in Oregon as well merely relying upon biased studies by a minority of propagandists protesting against governmental policies concerning wild carnivore management, which of course we’re all unsatisfied with, they want less control we want more controls. These people are idiots extraordinaire. They’d have a wolf pack and six grizzly’s living on every single square mile of forest and ag land with property rights granted them of our own property placing us in a completely defenseless position if they had their way.

          • Chandie Bartell

            Except on their property! Barb complained about beavers damaging trees on her property, or the fact they can be damaging to trees. I know for a fact that a trapper is busy full-time trapping beavers from the most rich and famous, to the highest economic bracket in the greeniest, liberal county in Idaho, for the upper -classes who love wolves but hate beavers destroying their landscaped lawns.

            I have a beaver population explosion out here, and allowed it and I’m an animal hater, because I’m pro-hunting-trapping. Shows I’m much more tolerable than the Western Watershed Activists in Idaho.

          • GoldDust

            I think I know that Beaver terrorizing mad trapper helping out those environmentalist hypotwats.

          • Idaho_Roper

            I would very much like a detailed and accurate list of these people, verified and if possible their position on wolves and our constitutional amendment to protect trapping.

            I would be very willing to expose these frauds and make sure it is known state wide of their hypocritical actions.

            It is time they owned their outright hypocrisy.

    • Idaho_Roper

      But…..what of the people whom purchased property void of government wolves, only to have them dumped upon them?

      One an not pick and choose, the zebra mussel is “wildlife” too.

      And I disagree, wildlife CAN be managed by it’s owner, the states citizens, the problem arises when lunatics want to forbid that control.

      • GoldDust

        They don’t give a damn about people, only their silly cause which is detrimental to people all over this planet. The same corporate consciousness that caused the damage pretending to fix the damage Controlled Opposition Environmentalist Movement Democide.

  • Idaho_Roper

    Frankly, I do not believe in government immunity. Any time laws and responsibility are exempted for the ruling class, they simply become tools of oppression.

    The dumping of wolves in the lower 48 was a negligent act, and anyone involved in any matter should be held accountable. The same can be said for the over protection of all dangerous carnivores. It is time to send some of these offenders to jail.