Government Law

Negligent hiker injured on trail must pay $9.2K rescue bill, top state court rules

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A Michigan man didn’t train adequately before a solo hike in New Hampshire in 2012 and ignored adverse weather reports. Now he must pay the $9,200 cost of his rescue from a remote area, the state’s top court ruled Thursday.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court also found that Edward Bacon, now 62, acted negligently by jumping backward over a ledge despite a history of multiple hip dislocations, reports the Associated Press.

“We agree with the trial court’s conclusions that the defendant’s injury was foreseeable and directly caused his need to be rescued,” the court said in a unanimous written opinion (PDF).

Bacon told the AP that the court relied on information from the state Fish and Game Department in reaching its decision. He said he believed he had prepared adequately, didn’t ignore adverse weather reports and had never been warned by a doctor that jumping on a hip that had previously been dislocated was dangerous.

While he may now have to pay the state, Bacon says his hiking days in New Hampshire are over. “It has soured me at this point,” he told the AP. “I’m looking at western mountains at the moment.”

A state statute enacted in 1999 authorizes New Hampshire to charge for rescues. It originally required reckless conduct on the part of the rescued individual before he or she was billed, but was changed in 2008 to require only negligence, the New York Times (reg. req.) reported at the time.

Starting in January, the state has begun selling “Hike Safe” cards that indemnify buyers against rescue costs, so long as they did not engage in intentional or reckless conduct, a Fish and Game web page explains. The cards cost $25 for an individual and $35 for a family.

Related coverage:

Associated Press: “N.H. Senate approves hiking card that will help fund search-and-rescue operations “

Updated on May 1 to add a link to the opinion and fix a typo in the word “ledge.”

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