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Judge rules for government in bear mauling

Oct 26, 2012 - The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- A federal judge has dismissed a wrongful death suit that claimed negligence by federal researchers led to the fatal bear mauling of an Illinois man.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal ruled that Wyoming law protects the government from liability in the case. She said researchers had no duty under Wyoming law to warn that a bear had been trapped and released in the area. The government claimed immunity under the law, which says property owners don't have to warn people about possible dangers.

Freudenthal also found it wasn't obvious to the bear researchers that the man would enter the area in Shoshone National Forest.

A 430-pound grizzly bear killed Erwin Evert of Park Ridge, Ill., in June 2010. The male bear had just reawakened after being trapped, tranquilized and studied by members of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team.

Evert's widow, Yolanda Evert, filed the $5 million wrongful death lawsuit, saying researchers should not have trapped the bear so close to a trail and cabins. She also alleged they prematurely took down signs that warned passers-by of their work.

The Everts owned a cabin about a mile from where Erwin Evert was killed.

Researchers did post warning signs along a route Evert took to the trap site but removed them after three weeks of work there. They hadn't seen anyone on the route.

Emily Rankin, an attorney for Yolanda Evert, said she was evaluating the judge's decision.

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