An Idaho family is suing the U.S. Forest Service after a dead tree fell and injured their young son at a remote campsite in the Boise National Forest.
The couple claim the Forest Service is responsible for not removing the tree, which was blown over by a gust of wind while the family was camping in September 2010. Their son was six at the time and suffered a large laceration, compound fracture and a puncture wound in his back that impaired his breathing. More details were reported by Associated Press earlier this week.
The lawsuit brings up the issue of whether a federal agency should be held responsible to protect the public and ensure safety to those recreating on public land.
The couple said the Forest Service was negligent because it didn’t remove the tree, which was a hazard. They’re suing for more than $1 million in damages and emotional stress in federal court.
“The tree was clearly dead — had been dead for years — and was within eight feet of the fire ring, and within 48 feet of the Forest Service road,” said Eric Rossman, their attorney in Boise, on Wednesday. “It was an obvious hazard.”
There have been similar lawsuits elsewhere, including an Oregon man who sued the Forest Service in 2010 after he was struck and injured by a tree while driving in his truck. That case was settled earlier this year and has been dismissed.
With millions of tourists visiting Montana every year, it seems improbable for our Forest Service to remove all potential natural hazards in the 17 million acres of Forest Service land in our state. I wonder who you would sue if you are ever struck by lightening?