LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Las Vegas schoolteacher injured in a crash with a wayward cow is suing Cliven Bundy, saying the southern Nevada rancher let his cattle wander through a broken fence not far from where his supporters and federal agents had an armed standoff.
Danielle Marie Beck, a seventh-grade math teacher, suffered serious injuries including broken ribs in the crash, said her attorney Bob Apple. She filed a civil lawsuit Sunday in Clark County District Court, seeking at least $20,000 in damages and medical expenses.
The crash came two days after the April 12 standoff over an attempted roundup of Bundy’s cattle, which land managers say he’s been illegally grazing on public land for 20 years. Bundy, a states’ rights advocate and descendant of Mormon settlers, refuses to acknowledge federal authority on public lands.
Bundy told the Las Vegas Review-Journal the state was at fault for failing to maintain the fence, and he blamed the driver for hitting his cow.
“It’s a state problem. It’s not our problem,” Bundy said (http://bit.ly/1tpazvZ ). “We really feel bad when it happens. But we’re not liable. The person whose car hit that cow is liable to me.”
Bundy didn’t immediately respond to messages Thursday from The Associated Press, and it was not clear if he had an attorney. He has represented himself in previous local, state and federal legal proceedings.
Fences lining the interstate are owned and maintained by the Nevada Department of Transportation to designate right-of-way and to control access, said Mary Martini, district engineer for the transportation department.
“In some areas we use livestock fences,” Martini said in a statement. “But it is always the responsibility and liability of the owners to control their animals.”
Beck was a passenger and her friend, Matthew Paul Zanatta, was driving the 2009 Mazda sedan about 70 mph in a 75 mph zone when it hit the cow on a dark stretch of Interstate 15 about 75 miles northeast of downtown Las Vegas, according to a Nevada Highway Patrol report. The car veered into a culvert, where paramedics reached Zanatta and Beck. The car was demolished.
Troopers said one cow was dead at the scene and four others were herded out of the interstate right-of-way through the broken fence. Dispatchers contacted Bundy, who lives in nearby Bunkerville, but he didn’t go to the crash scene, the report said.
The showdown between federal land managers and Bundy came during an attempt by contract cowboys to round up some 900 head of Bundy cattle from parched public range surrounding his Virgin River valley ranch and melon farm.
The federal Bureau of Land Management maintains that Bundy owes more than $1 million in fees and penalties.
Bureau officials, who didn’t immediately comment on Thursday, have promised administrative and judicial efforts to resolve the dispute.
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