Widow of mountain-goat victim to appeal court ruling

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — The widow of a Port Angeles man who was gored to death by a mountain goat in Olympic National Park in 2010 is appealing the federal court decision that absolved the National Park Service of negligence in his death.

Lawyers for Susan Chadd filed the notice of appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in federal District Court in Tacoma, where Judge Robert Bryan dismissed Chadd’s final negligence claim
Oct. 10.

Tacoma lawyer Steve Bulzomi, an attorney representing Chadd, said last week that a legal brief outlining the basis of the appeal will be filed no earlier than June.

“We are appealing because we would like the 9th Circuit to reverse the decision,” he said.

“What we base the appeal on will be revealed when we file our first brief.”

Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said the park does not comment on ongoing cases.

Chadd could not be reached for comment.

In the first part of his ruling, Bryan decided Aug. 20 that the park cannot be sued for its decisions.

Bryan rejected Bulzomi’s claims that more concerted actions should have been taken against the mountain goat, which he said had a history of aggression against hikers before it killed Robert Boardman, 63, during a hike on the popular Switchback Trail on Klahhane Ridge.

Bryan said the park’s actions are immune from lawsuits even though the park could have acted more quickly to relocate or kill the animal.

Bryan dismissed Chadd’s final negligence claim Oct. 10, ruling that the park was not liable for failing “to summon a helicopter in a timely manner” after Boardman was gored by the 370-pound male mountain goat.

The mountain goat was killed by a park ranger Oct. 16, 2010, the same day Boardman died.

Bulzomi had argued that then-Olympic National Park Superintendent Karen Gustin and former park Chief of Natural Resources Cat Hoffman knew of a “legitimate safety issue” involving the animal and were aware that adverse conditioning had failed to control it.

The park had determined that Boardman, a registered nurse, musician and educator, had not acted aggressively toward the animal.

Boardman, Chadd and a friend were hiking when the mountain goat began harassing the party.

The animal followed Boardman, who separated himself from his companions to protect them, before it fatally gored him in the thigh.

Boardman’s death was the first fatal animal attack in the history of the park, which was established in 1938.

Park officials claimed they could not identify the mountain goat as the same oversized animal they had identified as “Klahhane Billy” in emails and park ranger reports, which were obtained by the Peninsula Daily News under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Park officials said the animal that killed Boardman was healthy in rut and larger and older than average mountain goats.

Chadd had told a park ranger that her husband had complained to the park several times about an aggressive mountain goat on Klahhane Ridge.

Chadd, her son, Jacob Haverfield, and Boardman’s estate filed the federal lawsuit seeking unspecified damages Nov. 1, 2011.

The federal government denied more than $10 million in claims earlier in 2011.

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 12. 2012 5:57PM
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