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ARTICLE ID 192582

$________ – GOVERNMENT NEGLIGENCE – FAILURE TO PROPERLY MAINTAIN ROCK WALL – ROCK WALL GAVE WAY WHILE THE DECEDENT CHILD WAS SITTING ON IT – CHILD WAS STRUCK BY PORTIONS OF WALL AND KILLED – WRONGFUL DEATH OF NINE-YEAR-OLD CHILD

U.S.D.C. - Eastern District of California

In this negligence matter, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant was negligent in failing to keep the trails in the park safe, which resulted in the collapse of the rock wall that killed the minor child and injured the plaintiff. The plaintiffs alleged damages for the wrongful death of the child, personal injuries of the plaintiff and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The defendant denied the allegations and disputed liability citing lack of notice and immunity.

On July 29, ________, the nine-year-old decedent and his family traveled to the Lassen Volcanic National Park with the intention of hiking toward the top of Mount Lassen on the designated Lassen Peak Trail. The plaintiffs paid a fee to the defendant in order to access the trail. During the hike, the minor decedent and his sister sat on a mortared rock wall along the trail to take a break. While the two were sitting on the wall, the wall gave way and began to roll down the hill. The two children tumbled down the hill. The wall rolled over the decedent causing him fatal injuries. He died at the scene. The plaintiff sister was injured as a result of the incident and the remaining members of the family, including the decedent’s parents, were present and witnessed the injuries to the decedent and his sibling, including the death of the child.

The plaintiffs brought suit against the defendant United States alleging wrongful death of the nine-year-old child; negligence to the plaintiff who suffered injuries when the wall collapsed and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The plaintiff alleged that the park had mandatory policies which required the park’s employees to close a trail or make it safe. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants were negligent in that the trail the plaintiffs were on was not safe and had not been closed. The plaintiff also alleged that the defendant engaged in the spoliation of evidence in that the defendant destroyed the remaining portions of the wall and documents relevant to the condition of the wall which was in need of repair.

The defendant denied the allegations and maintained that the actions of the defendant and its employees constituted discretionary acts which entitled it to protection under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The defendant further argued that the wall was not unreasonably dangerous and it had no prior notice of any problems with the rock wall on the trail prior to this incident. The defendant argued that it was not liable to the plaintiffs for the death of the child and injury to his sister.

After several pre-trial motions and rulings, the court determined that as a matter of law, the defendant was liable for the plaintiff’s claims. The matter settled shortly thereafter for the sum of $________.

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