It’s been just more than a year since a bridge jumper landed on Andrew Hill as he floated the Clark Fork, breaking both of Hill’s legs. Hill now alleges in a lawsuit filed against Missoula County on Aug. 5 that officials knew the Bandmann Bridge posed a danger, but failed to take measures to protect the public.
“Defendant owed a duty of care to construct and maintain (the bridge) in a safe manner, to take appropriate safeguards to minimize the danger that activities on the Bridge posed to the public, and to warn of any known or hidden dangers,” Hill argues in the lawsuit.
Hill claims the county was negligent because it failed to erect barriers to prevent jumping on the East Missoula bridge. He argues further there were no signs warning floaters of the potential danger. “Defendant willfully and wantonly breached its duty of care as a landowner by failing to take reasonable measures,” the suit alleges.
In addition to the broken legs, Hill sustained injuries to his back, neck and hip. “He was confined to a wheelchair for most of the summer,” according to the lawsuit. Hill says he’s entitled to damages.
In response to the allegations, Missoula County Risk Manager Hal Luttschwager says he’s contacted Hill’s attorneys in an attempt to settle the case out of court. “They’ve agreed to sit down with me,” Luttschwager says. Luttschwager adds that he’d prefer to find common ground rather than litigate.
Last month, Missoula County Justice of the Peace Amy Blixt ordered the man who jumped on Hill, Corey Hewitt, to pay $22,589 in restitution after a jury found him guilty of negligent endangerment.
Another bridge jumper, Charles David Ament, is also facing negligent endangerment charges after knocking a man unconscious during a July 12 landing in the Clark Fork. Charging documents indicate Ament jumped “after consuming substantial amounts of alcohol and ignoring posted signs that jumping from the bridge was illegal.”
Ament also jumped from the Bandmann Bridge. His next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 20.