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U.S. Judge to Hear Bear Attack Case

August 18, 1986|From Associated Press

A federal judge plans to hear arguments in Los Angeles later this month in a case brought by two Californians who blame the National Park Service for a grizzly bear mauling they suffered in Glacier National Park in Montana.

The case of Hilligoss and Lordan vs. the United States is scheduled before U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie Aug. 26.

On Sept. 4, 1984, Frances Lordan and Rob Hilligoss of Atherton were hiking near Fifty Mountain Campground, about 10 miles south of the Canadian border, when they were surprised by a grizzly that charged and attacked both visitors before fleeing.

Lordan, a model, suffered severe leg and shoulder wounds and was hospitalized in Kalispell, Mont., for more than a week. Hilligoss suffered multiple cuts and bruises but wasn't seriously hurt.

Later that fall, they filed a claim against the Interior Department for more than $1 million each. They alleged the park was negligent by failing to warn of the personal danger that grizzly bears can pose, and claimed further that the attacking bear had been tranquilized with PCP, a drug that causes antisocial behavior in humans.

The government rejected the claim.

Interior attorneys argued that the couple received ample warning of the threat of grizzly bear attack and the bear had never been tranquilized with any drug, let alone with one used only twice in Glacier's history.

When the lawsuit was filed on July 3, 1985, the couple repeated the complaint of inadequate warning, and suggested tranquilizers had contributed to the problem. They did not allege the specific use of PCP, however.

Unlike the original tort claim, the lawsuit does not ask specific damages but instead calls for redress "in excess of $10,000."

The trial has been split into two phases: Liability and damages. If Lordan and Hilligoss can convince Rafeedie that the National Park Service was responsible for their injuries, then the trial will recess so the government has time to prepare arguments about the damage award, Silver said.

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