Forest Service Immune From Liability for Harm Caused by Hazardous Tree

Your Government counsel.™

A court recently held that the Forest Service was protected from any liability for harm caused to a young boy who was harmed by a hazardous tree in a dispersed campsite.

While a family was camping at a dispersed campsite on the Boise National Forest, a tree that had been dead for 10-25 years fell on a young boy, causing severe injury.  Five years before, the Forest Service had inventoried the campsites in the area for purposes of improving watershed conditions, and the evaluation included an assessment of hazardous trees.  However, the Forest Service did not identify the tree as hazardous at that time, nor did the evaluation require that any action be taken as to hazardous trees.  After the incident, the Forest Service did conclude that, had the tree still been standing, it would have been identified as highly hazardous.

The family filed a claim against the government for negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress.  The court concluded that the agency had no policy that required it to remove hazardous trees from dispersed camping sites.  The court also concluded that the decision by the Forest Service as to when to remove hazardous trees from dispersed campsites was driven by policy and discretionary.  Thus, for these two reasons, the court held that the Forest Service was immune from any liability in this situation.

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