Aug 11, 2011 at 9:26 am #1277899
Article published Aug 7, 2011
Hiker's death prompts $10 million in claims against Olympic National Park
By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part one of a two-part series on more than $10 million in claims filed in the wake of the October death of Bob Boardman, who bled to death after he was gored by a mountain goat in Olympic National Park.
PORT ANGELES — Wrongful death and personal injury claims totaling $10,022,700 have been made against Olympic National Park over the death of Bob Boardman, and a full-blown lawsuit may be imminent, according to his estate's lawyer.
“We are intending to file a wrongful death suit,” personal injury lawyer John Messina of Tacoma said.
He said the park is liable for Boardman's death.
“Negligence is the basis,” he said Friday. “Our goal is to seek justice in this case and wake up the park system.”
Three claims were made. They are from Boardman's estate; his widow, Susan Chadd of Port Angeles; and her son, Jacob Haverfield, Messina said, and were made as a prelude to likely filing the lawsuit against the park in federal District Court in Tacoma.
Park officials would not comment on the claims, said Barb Maynes, park spokeswoman.
The claims were served on park Superintendent Karen Gustin on May 1, Messina said.
Boardman, 63, of Port Angeles was fatally gored by a 370-pound mountain goat while hiking on Klahhane Ridge with Chadd and their friend Pat Willits, also of Port Angeles, on the afternoon of Oct. 16.
“I feel like they weren't protecting people and the ecosystem, and I feel that on the day of the accident, they responded very poorly to our calls for help,” Chadd said in an interview.
According to Chief Park Ranger Colin Smith, the mountain goat had a history of “aggressive behavior.”
Boardman had not acted aggressively toward the animal, according to park reports.
The mountain goat, which severed Boardman's artery, stood over Boardman for about 30 minutes, making it impossible for Chadd to reach him, according to park ranger reports of the incident.
Boardman likely died within five minutes of being gored, the reports said.
Chadd said the park was “very irresponsible” by suggesting that throwing rocks would ward off the animal that killed her husband.
The wrongful death claims include $5 million for Boardman's estate, $3 million for Chadd and $2 million for Haverfield.
The personal injury claims of $22,700 include expenses for counseling sessions, massage therapy, newspaper obituaries, emergency room procedures and funeral expenses.
Documents about the incident were obtained by the Peninsula Daily News under a Freedom of Information Act request.
The hiking party was sitting and eating lunch after hiking on Switchback Trail when the mountain goat came up to them, circled them at a close distance with its head down, pawed the ground, made bleating noises and would not leave, Willits said in her written statement to the park.
Boardman told Chadd and Willits to keep walking ahead of him, at times telling them to “keep going” while the animal followed next to him, Willits said.
It followed beside him for up to a mile before it gored him, according to park ranger reports.
Rangers shot the mountain goat dead the same afternoon with 1-ounce shotgun shells. A necropsy determined it was healthy.
Boardman, a registered nurse, accomplished guitarist, diabetes educator, artist and writer, was honored as a hero at a memorial service attended by 350 mourners at the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Center.
Maynes said Chadd's claims were forwarded to the Office of the Solicitor, Pacific Northwest Region, U.S. Department of the Interior in Portland, Ore.
Messina said the deadline for the park's response is Nov. 1.
Kelly Powell, an attorney-adviser in the Office of the Solicitor, said Interior intends to answer the claims.
Options include an offer of settlement “to a simple letter acknowledging part of the claim or denying the claim,” Powell said.
Messina said the federal government's willingness to respond to such claims and to negotiate is “the exception to the rule.”
On Monday: Had the same goat that killed Bob Boardman been aggressive toward him in the past?
Aug 11, 2011 at 12:44 pm #1768278
@gregfLocale: Canadian Rockies
I hate these kind of lawsuits. Yes it is sad that someone died but in my opinion a National Park should have almost zero responsibility for your safety. Maybe in the case of a bridge collapse or in large front country campgrounds they should take some kind of responsibility but as soon as you step off the pavement in the wilderness you are on your own.
If people are successful in these lawsuits in means more trail closures and restrictions on hikers.Aug 11, 2011 at 1:04 pm #1768283
Another case of "your federal tax dollars at work."
Some of the claim was based on the expense of massage therapy. ( ! )
That really got my goat.
–B.G.–Aug 11, 2011 at 2:16 pm #1768300
@jreigleLocale: SF Bay area
Most of the stories I read suggested this guy had gone as far as to report aggressive goats on this trail numerous times.Aug 11, 2011 at 2:32 pm #1768307
@robertm2sLocale: Lake Tahoe
I've gone as far as to report aggressive thorn bushes on a National Forest trail numerous times. I should get at least a thousand for the scratch on my knee that would have gotten infected if I hadn't poured whiskey on it.
BOB GROSS: You didn't use the words "got my goat," I know you wouldn't do such a thing, it was just my rum-soaked brain that imagined that.Aug 11, 2011 at 3:44 pm #1768332
That goat wasn't kidding around!Aug 11, 2011 at 3:50 pm #1768334
These goats are dangerous. Ran into them recently and they went after us a bit. Didn't know they could actually kill. Yikes!Aug 11, 2011 at 5:46 pm #1768391
So what is one supposed to do when encountering a hostile goat? I'm not sure what I would have done in their situation.
Particularly interested because I am going to Goat Rocks Wilderness this weekend. However, I have my doubts I will even see a goat.Aug 11, 2011 at 8:41 pm #1768477
"Most of the stories I read suggested this guy had gone as far as to report aggressive goats on this trail numerous times."
It's a wilderness, the goats live there, he does not. The only proper way of addressing this "issue" is to not enter this area. You're a guest in the goat's home, if it's aggressive toward you, don't keep going back.
Insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting different results.
It sickens me to know that this frivolous lawsuit (aren't they all?) will end up getting someone a big payday at the expense of my bankrupt country.Aug 11, 2011 at 8:44 pm #1768479
The goat has already paid the ultimate price.
–B.G.–Aug 11, 2011 at 9:51 pm #1768495
@woodenwizardLocale: Greater Mt Tabor
Oooh! I'm bout to invent goat spray.
I wonder if they left to food when they walked away, or if they carried it.
Well, I guess this will be the end of ONP. They irony- A National Park shut down due to nature.
Ban the Goats!
Good thing they didn't get attacked by a bear- that'd be at least worth 20MAug 13, 2011 at 6:11 pm #1769068
@start2dayLocale: So Cal.
The filing of a government claim means nothing. It costs zip and the lawyer can make unfounded allegations and ask for huge sums of money. Except under very, very unusual circumstances the government is immune from liability for death or injuries occurring in the wilds. That case will get dismissed within a month or two after it's filed.Aug 13, 2011 at 6:19 pm #1769070
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
as with the numerous deaths in Yosemite and more recently the recent death of a hiker on Half Dome….you assume the risks once you are in the backcountry. No brainer on that one. Sad that someone died….but really?Aug 14, 2011 at 6:42 am #1769163
@carlbeckerLocale: Northern Virginia
As soon as you are born you assume risks. Stay in bed or get out you assume risks. That is life. Sue Mother Nature or the Park Service when your loved one gets struck by lightning. In Greed we trust. Sorry to hear about the deaths, goat and person but it could happen to any of us.Aug 17, 2011 at 12:41 pm #1770399
@chuckie_cheeseLocale: Arizona and British Columbia
I've hiked the ridge over to Mt Angeles and I've seen the goat a couple of years ago.
This lawsuit would imply that the national parks are supposed to make the wilderness safe for all hikers. Ridiculous. My pictures, NOT the goat in question but another one in ONP.Aug 17, 2011 at 3:00 pm #1770465
@richardglyonLocale: Bridger Mountains
@Lumyes Ted – You wrote
That's quite correct as far as the law books go, but plaintiff's lawyers have ways of getting around such rules. They often claim gross negligence or intentional misconduct, in hopes of getting past a quick dismissal. The article in the first posting hinted that charges like this will be coming. Sometimes the plaintiff will name Park officers individually, and they don't enjoy the broad protection that the US government does. There are many plaintiff-friendly or gutless judges who will not throw a case like this out summarily.
Whatever happens, this isn't free – government resources (which we taxpayers fund) must be devoted to answering the claim, and the Park Service may decide it's time for more senseless rules, to stave off the next suit or to settle this one. The plaintiffs' bar are the only ones who will surely benefit.Aug 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm #1770477
Not exactly fair to the plaintiff bar. I don't think any of us know much at all about the facts of this case. People who are strong anti-lawsuit folks sometimes change their minds when presented with the entire set of facts. I know from experience that trial-by-press often reaches the wrong result. The jury trial process allows 12 people to look at all the evidence to reach a decision. I think people would disagree with juries much less often if they sat through an actual trial and looked at evidence. Reading an account in the press is not the same; I promise you. Our civil court system gets it right most of the time in my experience.
BTW, I love the idea of goat spray. You should get a business plan together. I think most people learn to dislike and fear the goats a little. I was glad I had my ice axe along last time I was in goat country. Turn your back on them and they will go after you.Aug 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm #1770482
@daviddrakeLocale: North Idaho
Like the post title. But I doubt wearing a goat suit would be an effective deterrent.Aug 17, 2011 at 3:55 pm #1770492
There is an easy way to make Park animals fear people, but it's really unpopular.Aug 17, 2011 at 4:17 pm #1770502
"But I doubt wearing a goat suit would be an effective deterrent."
You would need to get it equipped with a territory-marking attachment.
–B.G.–Aug 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm #1770506
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
Think it's common sense that a person takes some risk exiting their residence but then if a meteor hit a home, NASA would likely get sued in this economy. Taken to an extreme, agencies and private owners might want hikers to take a "course" to be certified to walk in the backcountry one day.
Might need to get certified to leave your residence, since this could be applied to dogs in city limits. At this rate, we will all be hiking and camping in stealthy Multicam…Aug 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm #1770514
I think the best goat spray would contain human urine. Just spray/squirt it on the closest goat. The others in the herd will then lick and paw it to death.
Seriously though, last time I was swarmed by goats, I was happy to have my ice axe with me. They were more aggressive than my comfort level allowed. I think one trick is to never turn your back on one. Both times I have been charged, it was after I backed away from them. They stared me down until I turned my back. Then he charged.Aug 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm #1770539
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
I was in the Enchantments a couple years ago and goats walked within a few feet of us, I had to shoo it away, didn't seem aggressive though.
Last summer I hiked from Hurricane Ridge to Mt. Angeles. There was a warning sign about aggressive goats. I didn't see any. I think that was a warning about the goat that eventually killed someone.
I don't know the full story, but if there was an aggressive goat, maybe they should have done more than just put a warning sign up.
If NASA knew that a metoer was going to strike a specific location, and all they did was put a warning sign up rather than evacuating people, maybe that would be reasonable to sue them.
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