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Gross Negligence Redefined

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Gross Negligence Redefined

Brien Roche

Gross Negligence Redefined By The VSC

The Virginia Supreme Court seems to have given new meaning to this term. Elliott v. Carter was a wrongful death action that involved a Boy Scout and his peer leader. The Boy Scouts were on an overnight camping trip. The peer leader, who at the time was 16 years old, took the Scouts into the Rappahannock River. The young Scout that passed away in this instance was 13 years old. It was known that he was not a swimmer. He had been given a lesson that morning on how to swim. However he still was not a swimmer. The group of boys waded into the river walking along a sand bar.

The peer leader decided to swim back to shore which was some distance away. Prior to doing that he instructed the decedent to walk back on the sand bar the same way they had come out. For some reason the decedent fell into the deeper water. The peer leader attempted to save him but was unable to do so.

Lack Of Care

The suit was filed by the decedent’s family. It was against the peer leader alleging gross negligence.

Gross negligence has been defined in Virginia cases as being a degree of fault showing indifference to another and an utter disregard of prudence that amounts to a complete neglect of the safety of the other person.

Gross Negligence Redefined By Divided Court

The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that as a matter of law this case did not display gross negligence of the peer leader. The court noted that it was not alleged that the young scout had any trouble walking out on the sand bar.

In addition there was no proof the peer leader was aware of any hidden danger in the river. There was no proof that the river had changed in any way that would have stopped the scout from walking back the way he had walked out. Also the court noted that the peer leader did attempt to swim back to assist. Furthermore there was no proof that the peer leader was close enough to attempt to render aid when the decedent fell into the water. In conclusion the court stated there was not a complete neglect of the safety of the decedent. Therefore the case was stricken and dismissed.

Two justices of the Supreme Court dissented holding that this issue should be submitted to the jury. Call, or contact us for a free consult.

Gross Negligence Redefined- The Controversy

This case does seem to change the law in that most trial lawyers feel that this set of facts creates a jury issue. The court should not have decided the case as a matter of law.

The concept of gross negligence arises with charitable and governmental entities and employees. They may not be liable for acts of ordinary negligence. However they may be liable for acts that rise to the level of gross negligence.

Other Cases

In one case a high school football coach who weighed 260 pounds picked up a 144 pound player and slammed him to the ground.  The player broke his left arm.  The Court held that those facts were enough to make out a claim for gross negligence.

In another case against the City of Virginia Beach a small child was playing on a gate to the city boardwalk.  The City had been warned of the defect in the gate. The gate was in an area maintained by the City as a recreational facility. The gate was also in an area that was designed to attract people of all ages including children. In addition under the City’s own rules gates were to be closed unless employees were working on the gate.  In spite of this the City took no action as to the gate. The Court held that was enough to create a jury issue as to gross negligence.

There are a number of cases from the Supreme Court dealing with this concept. In most of them the Court disagreed with the Trial Court as to whether or not gross negligence applied.  What must be kept in mind is that gross negligence indeed must be gross. In other words it must be supported by facts that show not even slight care being employed by the party accused.  In most cases that is a tough standard to meet.

Call, or contact us for a free consult. For more information on personal injury issues see the page referenced.

For more information on gross negligence see the pages on Wikipedia.

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Contact Us For A Free Consultation

Gross Negligence Redefined

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Gross Negligence Redefined

Brien Roche

Gross Negligence Redefined By The VSC

The Virginia Supreme Court seems to have given new meaning to this term. Elliott v. Carter was a wrongful death action that involved a Boy Scout and his peer leader. The Boy Scouts were on an overnight camping trip. The peer leader, who at the time was 16 years old, took the Scouts into the Rappahannock River. The young Scout that passed away in this instance was 13 years old. It was known that he was not a swimmer. He had been given a lesson that morning on how to swim. However he still was not a swimmer. The group of boys waded into the river walking along a sand bar.

The peer leader decided to swim back to shore which was some distance away. Prior to doing that he instructed the decedent to walk back on the sand bar the same way they had come out. For some reason the decedent fell into the deeper water. The peer leader attempted to save him but was unable to do so.

Lack Of Care

The suit was filed by the decedent’s family. It was against the peer leader alleging gross negligence.

Gross negligence has been defined in Virginia cases as being a degree of fault showing indifference to another and an utter disregard of prudence that amounts to a complete neglect of the safety of the other person.

Gross Negligence Redefined By Divided Court

The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that as a matter of law this case did not display gross negligence of the peer leader. The court noted that it was not alleged that the young scout had any trouble walking out on the sand bar.

In addition there was no proof the peer leader was aware of any hidden danger in the river. There was no proof that the river had changed in any way that would have stopped the scout from walking back the way he had walked out. Also the court noted that the peer leader did attempt to swim back to assist. Furthermore there was no proof that the peer leader was close enough to attempt to render aid when the decedent fell into the water. In conclusion the court stated there was not a complete neglect of the safety of the decedent. Therefore the case was stricken and dismissed.

Two justices of the Supreme Court dissented holding that this issue should be submitted to the jury. Call, or contact us for a free consult.

Gross Negligence Redefined- The Controversy

This case does seem to change the law in that most trial lawyers feel that this set of facts creates a jury issue. The court should not have decided the case as a matter of law.

The concept of gross negligence arises with charitable and governmental entities and employees. They may not be liable for acts of ordinary negligence. However they may be liable for acts that rise to the level of gross negligence.

Other Cases

In one case a high school football coach who weighed 260 pounds picked up a 144 pound player and slammed him to the ground.  The player broke his left arm.  The Court held that those facts were enough to make out a claim for gross negligence.

In another case against the City of Virginia Beach a small child was playing on a gate to the city boardwalk.  The City had been warned of the defect in the gate. The gate was in an area maintained by the City as a recreational facility. The gate was also in an area that was designed to attract people of all ages including children. In addition under the City’s own rules gates were to be closed unless employees were working on the gate.  In spite of this the City took no action as to the gate. The Court held that was enough to create a jury issue as to gross negligence.

There are a number of cases from the Supreme Court dealing with this concept. In most of them the Court disagreed with the Trial Court as to whether or not gross negligence applied.  What must be kept in mind is that gross negligence indeed must be gross. In other words it must be supported by facts that show not even slight care being employed by the party accused.  In most cases that is a tough standard to meet.

Call, or contact us for a free consult. For more information on personal injury issues see the page referenced.

For more information on gross negligence see the pages on Wikipedia.

Contact Us For A Free Consultation

Contact Us For A Free Consultation