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Gross Negligence

What is the Legal Definition of Gross Negligence?
What is Gross Negligence?
Gross negligence is a severe lack of due diligence on the part of the defendant that represents a lack of concern for the likelihood that injuries will result.  The distinction here is that the defendant’s conduct is exceptionally below the conduct of a “reasonable person.”  In a case involving gross negligence, punitive damages may be awarded in addition to general and special damages.
What are the Limitations on Gross Negligence?
Generally speaking, healthcare professionals and law enforcement are protected from liability when dealing with emergencies another other job functions.
In most states, health officials and employees are protected against criminal or civil liability except for “wanton and willful misconduct”
  • Healthcare professionals that respond to life threatening emergencies
  • First responders at emergencies
  • School nurses and professionals that administer medication and immunizations to pupils
Still, healthcare workers are expected to know the risks of administering aid or medication under the direction of others.  They may be found guilty of negligence if they knowingly administer drugs that could cause serious harm.  Additionally, in times of disaster, there are several statues that protect relief workers and those that provide shelter to the displaced.
How does it differ from willful and wanton conduct?
Willful and wanton conduct implies that the damages are intentional while behaving recklessly.  In this case, the defendant’s actions constitute a conscious disregard for his or her safety and the safety of others.  This differs from gross negligence in that the assumption is that the damages are unintentional, but caused by a willful disregard for the safety of others.  In both cases, the defendant has acted recklessly without regard for the well-being of others.  Any action on the part of the plaintiff that contributed to his or her injury is not willful and wanton conduct but rather gross negligence.
What is an example of gross negligence?
A building owner with knowledge of the fire code but willfully refuses to provide fire extinguishers and adequate fire exits will be found guilty of gross negligence on top of other charges should bodily harm or property destruction happen as a result of a lack of safety precautions in an unsafe environment.  A “reasonable person” would follow the fire code and abide by it to protect the well being of both him and others that rely in the safety of the establishment.  This example would be willful and wanton conduct if the defendant had perhaps locked employee exits during a fire emergency.
Source: Michigan Courts – https://www.courts.michigan.gov/mcji/negligenceCh10-19/negligence-ch14.htm