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Victim's parents sue Montana-based business for wrongful death

When someone dies as a result of the actions or inactions of another, authorities usually look carefully at the circumstances of the death to determine if one or more parties are responsible or negligent in any way.

As a result of the death of their 24-year-old son in Montana in November 2012, a couple recently filed a wrongful death suit against a Bozeman area company and its owner for failing to ensure the safety of their son. Their suit alleges that the business owner did not take reasonable measures to safeguard his employee, who worked as an animal trainer, from the dangers presented by a captive brown bear.

The victim was mauled and killed by an eight-year-old 500-pound bear named Griz when he was cleaning a pen housing Griz and another bear; both animals were in the pen at the time.

The victim had worked intermittently for the company since 2008. The coroner for Gallatin County ruled his death as accidental.

The company provides trained wild animals for films and photo shoots. Its inventory consists of nearly 50 wild animals, including wild cats and a Siberian tiger. A state investigation has revealed several undocumented animal escapes from the facility. There also has been at least one unreported injury suffered by an employee from a mountain lion.

The lawsuit against the company alleges wrongful death, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress and liability for injuries caused by a wild animal. The plaintiffs are seeking an unspecified amount in damages and court costs. The company's legal counsel says the lawsuit has no merit.

The loss of a loved one can be a terrible tragedy, especially if negligence was a contributing factor. Establishing liability, however, can be tricky.

Source: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, "Parents of trainer killed by bear sue Bozeman-area training facility," Whitney Bermes, April 26, 2014

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