U.S. attorneys representing the National Park Service in a wrongful death lawsuit stemming from a man gored to death by a mountain goat in Olympic National Park say the Park Service is not at fault nor responsible.
In a response filed January 9 to the lawsuit brought by the widow and stepson of Robert Boardman, who died in the park in October 2010 after being gored by a goat known as "Klahhane Billy," U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan cited 17 defenses outlining why the Park Service was not accountable in the case.
One of those defenses maintained that "plaintiffs' injuries and damages, if any, were caused by other preexisting or unrelated sickneses, injuries, or other medical conditions." Another said the family's injuries and damages, "if any, were caused by their own negligent acts or ommisions, wrongdoing, or failure to exercise due care on their part."
Mr. Boardman, of Port Angeles, Washington, was gored Oct. 16, 2010, on a trail near Klahhane Ridge some 17 miles south of Port Angeles. The 63-year-old was protecting other hikers from a goat, estimated at 370 pounds, when it gored him in the thigh and then reportedly stood over him as he bled to death.
The family's lawsuit was filed this past November in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Washington, after the Interior Department earlier in the fall rejected a $10 million wrongful death claim brought by Mr. Boardman's wife, Susan Chadd, and stepson, Jacob Haverfield.
The family's attorney has maintained that Klahhane Billy had a long reputation with park staff as a troublesome mountain goat.
"Our investigation of Mr. Boardman’s death found that the Park Service knew this animal was dangerous, documented that this animal was dangerous, and a clear threat to hikers and Park Service staff for nearly four years,” John Messina, lead attorney on the case with the Tacoma, Washington, law firm of Messina Bulzomi Christensen, said in November. "The Park Service failed to follow its own policies to remove dangerous animals from the park. Their failure to act and either remove or kill this animal according to park policy contributed to Mr. Boardman’s preventable death.”
According to the law firm's investigation, it had "uncovered Park Service documents and electronic communications that reveal a consistent pattern of aggressive behavior from Klahhane Billy towards Park Service employees, experienced hikers, Boy Scout troops, families with children and popular campsites. Many of the reports stated that the goat aggressively chased hikers. The Park Service told visitors to handle the goat by yelling loudly and waving their arms or even throwing rocks."
Ms. Chadd has maintained the Park Service knew it had a dangerous animal on its hands and should have done something about it.
"This was not a random act of nature,” she said when the wrongful death lawsuit was filed in November. “The Park Service knew this animal was dangerous, but did nothing. My husband’s death could have been prevented. I hope this case changes the way the Park Service manages dangerous animals.”
While the law firm has requested a bench trial on the wrongful death suit, the U.S. attorney's response asks that the complaint be dismissed with prejudice, meaning the family could not pursue another lawsuit on the matter.