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Wagner v. State

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Brief Fact Summary.

A woman was attacked by a mentally handicapped man in the custody of the state.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The intent to cause physical contact is a battery, and the State of Utah retains immunity to tortious battery.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

While an insane employee may or may not be less culpable personally for such attacks, the question of whether the injury was perpetrated deliberately or accidentally does not depend upon the employee's sanity.

View Full Point of Law

Plaintiff was in a store, when she was suddenly attacked from behind by a man in the custody of the state, out in public as part of his therapy.  His custodians were unable to prevent the attack, and the plaintiff was thrown to the ground by her hair, and beaten, sustaining serious bodily injuries.


Is the mentally handicapped man capable of committing a battery, which requires intent?


Yes, the intent to cause physical contact is a battery, even if the assailant does not know they are committing a battery.


The court reasons that the intent to cause the bodily contact is sufficient for a battery, even if the attacker does not know they are in fact attacking someone and committing a battery.  The State of Utah retains immunity for some torts, such as battery, and consequently, the court dismisses the case for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

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