Gross Negligence

What is Gross Negligence?

Gross negligence is a type of negligence that involves the defendant’s state of mind. Gross negligence occurs when a defendant shows a reckless disregard to the safety of the plaintiff. Reckless disregard is more than just a temporary lapse of judgement. It involves a conscious indifference for the well-being of another person.

What does the Plaintiff have to prove in a Gross Negligence Case?

Gross negligence has an objective element and a subjective element. The Supreme Court described each of these elements in U-Haul International, Inc. v. Waldrip.

Objective Element:

The situation is viewed objectively from the defendant’s standpoint at the time it occurred. This means that the objective element does not consider the defendant’s own knowledge or beliefs. The element is met if the “act or omission involved an extreme degree of risk, considering the probability and magnitude of the potential harm to others.” U-Haul International, Inc. v. Waldrip, 380 S.W.3d 118 (Tex., 2012).

Extreme risk does not mean a high chance of minor harm or a remote possibility of injury. Rather, extreme risk means that there is a high probability of the plaintiff suffering serious injury.

Subjective Element:

The subjective element actually considers what the defendant knew at the time that the event occurred. The defendant must have actual, subjective awareness of the risk involved. This element is met when the defendant decides to proceed with conscious indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others knowing the risk involved.

What Type of Damages Can the Plaintiff Recover if the Defendant Commits Gross Negligence?

The plaintiff can recover all of the damages that are available in an ordinary negligence case including economic damages, non-economic damages. In addition, the plaintiff can recover punitive damages. The punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for his reckless conduct.

What is the Burden of Proof for Gross Negligence?

The plaintiff must meet the clear and convincing evidence standard. This means that the evidence must leave the trier of fact with a firm conviction that each element of gross negligence is met.