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Guy's Suit: I Went to Dump Dog Poop, Encountered a Bear

Calif. tourist on Nevada side of Lake Tahoe says he hurt himself trying to flee from bear in dumpster
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2021 8:51 AM CDT
Lawsuit: Guy Dumps Dog Poop, Finds Furry Dumpster Diver
Likely not the bear that John Donaldson says startled him.   (Getty Images/bsrieth)

(Newser) – He took his dog for a walk, ran into a bear in a dumpster, and hurt himself trying to get away. That's the upshot of a confrontation two years ago in Lake Tahoe between a California tourist and said bear, and now the subject of a lawsuit in Nevada's Washoe County, reports the Bay Area News Group. Per the complaint filed Thursday by Davis resident John Donaldson, Donaldson had taken his dog for a walk in early September 2019 on the grounds of the Incline Crest condo village, where he and his wife had rented a cottage. When he went to dispose of a bag of dog waste in a nearby dumpster, Donaldson "had to fiddle with the defective and malfunctioning latch before opening it." When he finally managed to open the trash bin, the suit says, he had quite a surprise waiting for him inside: a bear, who started moving toward Donaldson. In his haste to get away from the creature, a "startled" Donaldson tripped and fell, "[twisting] his left leg and ankle" and landing on his back, per the complaint.

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The bear, meanwhile, idled for a few minutes, then vanished into the woods. Donaldson says in his suit that he suffered a torn Achilles tendon, for which he needed surgery, and severe compression of nerve roots in his spine, which also required surgery early the following year. His complaint asserts it was known that the area "has a serious and persistent bear problem, predominantly trash related," which the Guardian backs up, noting the community has long been at odds on how to deal with local bears that come foraging for food. The suit also alleges that workers and residents at the condo village had known about the defective dumpster latch, which allowed bears access to the dumpster, "for several months." Donaldson is seeking $15,000 in damages, plus lawyers' fees and punitive damages, from both the condo association and the Waste Management garbage collection service, whose drivers should've seen the "visibly apparent" defective latch, per his suit. (Read more bears stories.)

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