A Sacramento federal magistrate judge handed down his decision last week regarding a summer vacation turned tragedy. A 9-year-old boy was visiting the Lassen Volcanic National Park with his family in July of 2009, when the boy and his sister sat on a retaining wall in order to take some pictures. The wall quickly gave way, throwing both of the children down the mountainside, killing the boy and injuring his sister. The family filed a wrongful death and personal injury lawsuit against the park for its negligence in failing to maintain the wall.
In his ruling, the judge held that negligence on behalf of National Park Service officials caused the boy's death when the wall gave way. He also reprimanded the park's superintendent for making several fraudulent statements regarding evidence and interview attempts, and the alleged destruction of critical evidence relevant to the case.
The findings relate to destruction of documents during the discovery (evidence collection) portion of the case, including the shredding of an internal memorandum regarding the potential instability of the wall and other relevant documents. There were also damning statements from a governmental architect, and further evidence that the park superintendent lied about attempts to be interviewed by the park agency's inspector. The wall was also torn down within weeks following the incident, further disallowing the inspector the opportunity to inspect the wall.