This week the trial began in the case of the Ives family who lost their son to a bear last year versus the U.S. Forest Service. Sad though it is that this family lost their son, it brings up two questions in my mind that must be answered. Number one is, who has responsibility for the death of the boy? And number two is, should the parents be suing?
So, who has the responsibility? First of all, the family does. As the Forest Service claims, there are signs everywhere reminding people that bears frequent the area, and to use precautions necessary for such an area. That being said, the area in which the people were camping was in particular danger–increased danger, because a bear had been in the very campground earlier in the day on which Samuel Ives was dragged from the tent and killed. This specific danger required specific warnings.
Here’s an example of why. Suppose that on your street in your neighborhood a known child molester had been spotted earlier that day trying to get a kid into a car. Now, suppose that nobody let the families living on that street know about the incident. Suppose further that your child was abducted and killed by this creep. What if you then found out that the police had known about the molester trying to pick up another kid earlier that day, and didn’t bother to tell anyone. Would not the authorities share the blame for what happened for not warning the people about a specific threat in the area? Sure, they could use the excuse that there are always bad guys out there, and people need to be vigilant all the time. They could say that. But there are times when people need to be more vigilant than at other times.
Like the anecdotal child molester story, the bear incident shows that in this case, more stringent warnings should’ve been given. And who should they have been given by? The people who knew what had happened earlier in the day–the U.S. Forest Service.
That brings us to question two: Should the family be suing? My initial response is yes. That’s the only way the Forest Service will do things differently when confronted by a similar situation in the future. On the other hand, maybe the things they do differently will effect large numbers of people, like closing whole canyons down because a bear has been seen–just to avoid potential law suits. And another thing that bothers me about suing, is that it comes out of taxpayer’s pockets. Granted, there are a bunch of things that my money goes for via the Feds that I don’t like, that I probably don’t like much more than giving this poor family who has lost a son some money.
It’s a complicated question with no easy answers. Now that it’s in court, I’m not even sure that I hope they win the lawsuit. I’d like to see the Forest Service admit they should’ve done more to warn people, but I don’t want to see more and more people suing for incidents such as this.