Generally, most states have Immunity Statutes that grant municipal entities, and the government, immunity from particular tort-suit liabilities. Every state has a varied list of elements and factors that fall under particular municipality protection. One such protection is for when injuries arise from a “natural condition”, which has been interpreted to include many natural elements like: a rushing river; an avalanche, falling rocks, heavy rain, etc. But what about wildlife—especially indigenous wildlife? This article examines a case recently decided by the Utah Supreme Court, which involved the horrific story of an 11-year-old boy who was stolen from his tent by a wild black bear, and mauled to death. The court refused to include the indigenous black bear within the “natural condition” exception within Utah’s Immunity Act, which opened the State to liability.

Specifically, this article examines and proposes that the Utah Supreme Court came to the wrong decision in the case by excluding a black bear from the “natural condition” exception under Utah’s Immunity Act, and that the State should have been immune from the incident. Further, the article displays that indigenous wildlife is a condition of the natural land generally, and examines statutes from other jurisdictions that include such wildlife. The article suggests that for strong public policy reasons, Immunity Acts generally should be broadly interpreted to include indigenous wildlife within the “natural condition” exceptions, and alternatively should be drafted include indigenous wildlife. State costs, wildlife preservation, tourist funding, local economy, taxes, and other public and private interests are examined to display that wildlife should be considered within Immunity Statutes. Lastly, the article expressly recommends a change to Utah’s Immunity Act to include wildlife within the “natural condition exception”—in order to better reflect the aforementioned interests, and to save the State from future liabilities from injuries resulting from wildlife.

Included in

Torts Commons