August 16, 2022, marks the first day of law school orientation. During orientation day 1, Law School Foundations I is presented to the incoming class. To prepare for this lecture, we were asked to read Brown v. Salt Lake City. Below is a prepared brief from that reading. Following the brief, I will include lecture notes and a summary of the lessons I learned from the first day of orientation.

Brown v. Salt Lake City

33 Utah 222 Supreme Court of Utah.




Salt Lake City


Salt Lake City had built a conduit to navigate water from City Creek to manage irrigation (at no cost) domestic use (for a cost) and fire prevention (at no cost). When the water was not needed, they would close the conduit and the water flowed freely into City Creek. At the entrance of the conduit, boys played for many years. Although the conduit was blocked, the barrier was shifted so the boys and even some adults could fit into the spillway underground. Eventually, Marcus Brown (son of the plaintiff) was playing in the conduit, and by some means suffered death by the water there. The mother sued for damages.

Legal Questions

Is the city functioning as a corporation or government with the water works? Is the city guilty of negligence for the death of Marcus Brown? Finally, Is Mrs. Brown guilty of negligence.

Defense claims

A ruling should be held in favor of the defense because (1) the plaintiff never filed a claim to the city council as required by statues. (2) The functions of the waterworks were done in a governmental capacity. (3) If found that the city was functioned as a corporation rather than government, they would not be found negligent. And (4) if the city was negligent, the mother was also negligent and the city should not be liable for the trespass of the boy.


Judgement in behalf of the plaintiff. The city is liable for the death of the boy.


The analysis goes over each claim of the defense

(1) No claim was made

The court restates the statue that the plaintiff needed to file a claim within 90 days of any possible liable accident. The court does not change the statute, but states that the plaintiff does not need to meet these requirements. Importantly, the court examines the classes set by the statues, shares why the plaintiff doesn’t fall in these classes (the fact that the injury resulted in death), then states that the case cannot be dismissed because of this claim.

(2) The city acts in a governmental capacity

The city provides the fire safety water free of charge. So, they claim that the waterway falls under governmental capacity and is therefore not liable. However, the court sites many cases showing that a city is considered a municipal corporation for waterworks. Additionally, because the fire safety has the option of being charged (meaning it is free because of voluntary consideration from the city) they are functioning as a municipal corporation rather than governing capacity. The city is therefore liable for any negligence thereof.

(3) “The Turntable Cases”

The turntable doctrine states that a party may not be held liable for an object that is dangerous in nature, if it is attractive to children. Instead, it is up to the parents to shield their children from the dangerous object. The court partially adopts the turntable cases saying that they are not liable for machinery and such but are liable for objects that are specially attractive and dangerous in nature. From the facts of the case, the jury found that the facts met the standard. Interestingly, the court said that this was a “border-line case” and most courts would probably have said the city was not liable. However, because it was borderline, and a reasonable person could be persuaded one way or the other, the court saw no reason to overturn the ruling.

*Note, I don’t fully understand this doctrine and I could have it backwards. More to come from lecture notes.

*After lecture, I understand that I did have it a bit backwards. The turntable cases make the party liable for the machinery on the property. However, the court limits to what extent that liability extends. For instance, the commonality, attractiveness, etc. of the object in question.

(4) Contributory negligence of the mother

It is significant that the court saw no flaw with the jury instruction. Therefore, they decided not to pursue this point further.

Why should we care?

I have not listened to the lecture notes yet of why the professor found this case significant. However, I can make a few inferences. First, this case uses several types of law in the analysis. Statutes are examined carefully and common law is used frequently. Second, this case is very clear in stating the holding, and outlining the reasoning. Every detail is important for furthering the case. Further, this is the type of case that most lawyers are likely to encounter. Most cases are not Constitutional in nature, but rather civil, with torts involved. This case gives an excellent example of what we might expect to encounter during law school.

Additional Notes

The purpose of these orientation classes and the associated readings are to help you be prepared to “study law”. So, this case was assigned to help us learn how to read cases, understand its meaning, and use it in practicing the law.

When you approach a case, there are certain steps that need to happen. First, you learn what the legal question is. Second, you conduct your legal research that helps you find potential answers to that question. Finally, you need to predict what legal outcomes or solutions can be presented to the client.

What do lawyers read?

  • Previous cases
  • Committee reports (what was the purpose of legislation)
  • Primary authority sources – written someone who has the authority to bind you to the law.

Primary and secondary sources are helpful in understanding mandatory and persuasive sources. Jurisdiction in the State tends to be primary and mandatory, while cases from another State may be considered secondary or persuasive.

  • Material from the client

What do law school students read?

  • Case books

Case books are edited. They are not a primary source of information. A casebook will relate to certain cases to help you learn the legal principles.

  • Unedited cases

We will often read cases that are unedited. Most commonly, the use of unedited cases will be used in legal research and writing classes.

Why do edited cases cut out some content?

Some parts of the cases are pinpointed in edited cases by simplifying what facts are included in the case and sharing principles limited to the remaining content. This helps to focus on the content you want to be pinpointed.

Case features

Each case is going to have the following:

  • A citation stating where the case is recorded
  • In text citations pointing to other text. This can be done written out and with an asterisk pointing to the page number
  • The heading
  • Potential headnotes from west (these are secondary sources, not included as part of the case). These notes can be helpful tools for conducting legal research.

What can you do to make case reading easier?

  • Slow down for important parts, speed up for less important points, we will talk about this more tomorrow.
  • Break down the parts of the case (case briefing).
  • Make sure you know your objective before getting into the reading. Consequently, you should look for content that fulfills that objective.
  • During reading, you should actively take notes.
  • Finally, you should record notes-post reading.

Additional Notes

The biggest part of the lecture was to see the difference between edited cases and unedited cases. Additionally, we discussed when we might prefer to use an edited case verses an unedited case.


The content contained in this article may contain inaccuracies and is not intended to reflect the opinions, views, beliefs, or practices of any academic professor or publication. Instead, this content is a reflection on the author’s understanding of the law and legal practices.

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Categories: Orientation

Will Laursen

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