While the legislature considers whether to allow a $25 hiker’s card that would eliminate any chance of being charged for a rescue, a Michigan man is fighting a $9,300 bill for the help he got in 2012.
Earlier this month a judge in District Court in Concord decided Edward Bacon of Northville, Michigan was negligent. That meant he should reimburse New Hampshire Fish and Game for the cost of his rescue from the Franconia Ridge.
Bacon, 59, was on a five-day solo hike when he when he dislocated his hip on Sept. 18.
The injury required rescuers from Fish and Game, the Pemigewasset Valley Search and Rescue Team, the Mountain Rescue Service and Appalachian Mountain Club.
Fish and Game said Bacon was carried him almost four miles over rough terrain in heavy rain with winds gusting to 70 miles per hour.
Assistant Attorney General Philip Bradley argued in court that Bacon should pay because he was negligent in several areas.
One was hiking alone in a rugged area when he had physical problems including four hip surgeries since 2005 and an artificial hip that had dislocated twice in the previous year. He also needed two canes – not hiking poles.
Bradley also argued that Bacon ignored a forecast of high winds and heavy rain and pushed ahead along the exposed ridgeline instead of heading down a trail to get out of the worst weather.
The winds were so severe, Bradley told the court, that Fish and Game Conservation Officer Brad Morse was blown off his feet several times.
Bacon’s lawyer, Brad Davis, argued that Bacon had some bad luck but was far from negligent.
He told the court Bacon was experienced, had hiked in the area, had the proper equipment ranging from food to a tent and sleeping bad and that the bad weather arrived after Bacon had the misfortune to dislocate his hip.
He also told the court the planned hike was “a very modest 4.9 miles and he set out at 7:40 a.m. allowing him plenty of time to reach the Greenleaf hut, the final destination for the day.”
He also said Bacon’s doctor and physical therapist thought it “was reasonable for him to believe that his hip was fine for hiking.”
Bacon is appealing the decision.
The case comes as the legislature is preparing to consider House Bill 256 which would allow the state to sell a voluntary safe-hiker card for $25. Those who purchase the card would not be charged any fee for rescues even if they were at fault.
Backers of the proposal say they want to help Fish and Game recoup costs of expensive rescue operations.
But opponents, including many of the state’s volunteer search and rescue groups, say mountain rescues are a public service and there shouldn’t be any cost involved.