Suit for Flood Victims at Ark. Park Reviewed
A Texarkana federal judge has handed the Arkansas Supreme Court a question about state law which will determine how lawsuits by families of the victims of a June, 2010, flood which killed 20 people in the Albert Pike Campground of Montgomery County will proceed.
The Hope Star reported that among the 11 similar lawsuits before the federal courts is a refiled action by the family of Spring Hill High School teacher Debra McMaster, who was swept to her death by the massive flooding through the Loop D campground at the Albert Pike facility.
The legal action by Jerry McMaster on behalf of himself, his daughters and the estate of his wife, was dismissed in part without prejudice in April, 2012, pending the filing of Mrs. McMaster’s estate.
The lawsuit was refiled in federal court in Texarkana in December, 2012, pleading the same allegations of negligence by the U. S. Forest Service of the original complaint; and, based upon findings from a September, 2010, report by the U. S. Department of Agriculture which concluded that the Forest Service made major mistakes in designing and building the Loop D campground.
In her Sept. 30 order staying proceedings in all of the lawsuits, U. S. District Judge Susan O. Hickey defers to the Arkansas Supreme Court to resolve a question of the definition of the word “malicious” in the Arkansas Recreational Use Statute which provides general immunity to landowners in Arkansas who make their property available for the recreational use of others.
The government has argued that the lawsuits lack jurisdiction as to the subject matter of the law involved because the state statute extends immunity to the federal government.
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