The Appellate Group

Erickson v. Canyons School District

Erickson v. Canyons School District, 2020 UT App 91 (Orme, J.)


The plaintiff was hit in the head by a flagpole thrown into crowded bleachers by another student while the plaintiff was attending an assembly on school grounds. No employee provided medical care or called an ambulance. She filed a complaint against the school district, and the school district moved to dismiss the complaint because of governmental immunity. The district court determined that it was too early in the case to grant the motion on the issue of battery. The school district sought interlocutory appeal. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed, holding:

  • The district court did not err in denying the school district’s motion to dismiss. The legal outcome depends upon the student’s state of mind. Because the student who threw the flagpole could have intended to have friends catch it, there was at least one scenario in which the student who threw the flagpole did not possess the requisite intent to harm the plaintiff.
  • For one to act with substantial certainty, it is insufficient that the actor merely appreciates the existence of a risk—even a very high risk. Rather, the actor must know that the harmful contact is essentially unavoidable as a consequence of his action. Thus, a showing of substantial likelihood does not satisfy the substantial certainty standard.

Read the full court opinion