When the family of Samuel Ives, 11, set up their campsite in a remote area of the Uinta National Forest, they did not know that earlier that same day, June 17, 2007, at the same campsite, a man was awakened by, and was forced to repel, an attacking bear. He fired a pistol and threw stones to scare it away.
The man reported the incident to the Utah County Dispatch, the U.S. Forest Service, the highway patrol, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
The same day, UDWR began a search for the bear, which under its' classification system, had to be destroyed because it constituted a threat to the public because of its aggressive and fearless behavior towards humans.
By 5 p.m. or so, the bear had not been found, and the Division of Wildlife Resources personnel postponed the search until the next morning.
Later, the Ives family arrived, set up camp, and went to bed around 9 p.m.
During the night, the bear attacked, pulling Samuel from a tent. His body was found 400 yards away.
The boys' family sued for wrongful death, alleging that the parties involved were negligent in not closing the camp site and failing to warn of a dangerous bear in the area. They said, that had they known about the bear, they would not have camped in that area.
Somewhere in the government campground employee communication hierarchy, information and warnings about the bear were not passed along. Some Forest Service employees did not know about the earlier incident, and consequently, no action was taken to warn arriving campers.
The US District Court judge ruled for the plaintiffs, finding that they had shown that the bear that attacked was the same bear that had attacked campers earlier in the day.
Besides arguing government immunity from suit, attorneys for the U.S. Forest Service contended that its employees were not negligent and had not omitted any duty to the plaintiffs.
In May, 2011, the US District Court judge hearing the case, found the U.S. Forest Service, which owns the land where the attack occurred, 65% liable, and awarded the boy's estate $1.95 million.
On October 7, 2011, a Utah state District Court judge granted summary judgment to the Utah state defendants, dismissing the family's wrongful death suit. He ruled that Utah policies regarding black bears were "not law" and nothing contained in those policies changed the liability protections of the Utah Governmental Immunity Act.
Different jurisdictions, different party defendants, different laws involved, different result.