In a tragic case arising out of the death of a 15 year-old boy who was accidentally killed when a gun that was being used as a prop for a school play discharged near his head, and the force from the blank that was in the gun fragmented his skull.


The school moved to dismiss the case on the grounds that since they had reached a determination that under specific guidance it was appropriate and/or acceptable to have that gun on premises for purposes of the play, their decision was immune from criticism, and certainly from tort liability because under Utah law "the conduct of school officials and those acting on the school district’s behalf constituted the “issuance ... (of a) permit, license, certificate, approval, order, or similar authorization such that the school district has retained immunity."


Naturally, the teen's parents opposed the motion, asserting "We found out at the hospital, after we found out he was dead,"  that [the school]  send(s) out permission slips to watch movies but not one parent was notified that a real gun was being used."


In agreeing with the parents' side of the argument, the appellate court stated as follows:


"Allowing the school to claim immunity in the face of "negligent conduct of its employees" would nullify the waiver of immunity for acts of employee negligence that is part of the of the Governmental Immunity Act.


"Were we to interpret the licensing exception to include such routine operational approvals, the waiver of immunity in employee negligence cases would be rendered useless because governmental entities would all have the ability to circumvent the provision."


In my view,the court got this one right.

Jonathan Cooper
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Non-Compete, Trade Secret and School Negligence Lawyer
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