According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Sorenson, the Park Service, which paid survivors $1.49 million, could have gone to court with a strong defense since the Scouts failed to call off the trip when they found the creek running high. Outdoor leader and writer Charles Cook told the Salt Lake Tribune that the out-of-court settlement created a "terrible precedent," and he predicted copycat lawsuits the next time a hike ends in tragedy.
But Denny Davies, chief naturalist at Zion National Park, said that without a trial, "there is no legal precedent." Water Conservancy District officials, who paid survivors $750,000, were quick to add that the settlement was not an admission of liability.
The case could lead to stricter control of backcountry use on public lands. Washington County water manager Ronald Thompson said that the district may have to close some areas to the public. "If public (lands) are to be made available to the public, individuals who use these lands ... must take responsibility for themselves and their own safety."
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