Local governments and private corporations working with local government to provide services to the public often find themselves sued for gross negligence alongside medical malpractice or civil rights claims. You, the decision makers who have to address such lawsuits, understandably are confused by gross negligence, which is neither the regular negligence suit or §1983 claim.
“Gross negligence” means that the defendant’s conduct was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct. Gross negligence is specific to state law. In Michigan, gross negligence functions as an exception to governmental immunity. In Florida, gross negligence allows the finding of punitive damages against the employee and possibly the employer or government unit employing the individual.
You may not understand just what gross negligence means. That’s reasonable, because often plaintiff’s attorneys do not understand either. Michigan law regarding governmental immunity provides immunity for governmental functions. However, gross negligence is an exception to that immunity. A governmental agency providing medical care or treatment is liable, except for medical care or treatment provided by a hospital owned or operated by the department of corrections. MCL § 691.1407. This means that a jail or governmental facility which contains a medical clinic or provides medical care can potentially be sued. Further, if a governmental employee is so reckless or uncaring as to cause injury through indifference to the plaintiff, liability exists.
In Florida, §768.72 allows punitive damages if the defendant was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. Further, an employer can be liable for punitive damages for the conduct of an employee if the employer actively and knowingly participated in such conduct, management knowingly condoned, ratified, or consented to such conduct, or the management engaged in conduct that constituted gross negligence and which contributed to the loss, damages, or injury suffered by the plaintiff.
You may ask what happens if a private corporation or its employees are sued for gross negligence. This is a complicated issue that the attorneys of Chapman Law Group frequently address. Some Federal judges have agreed that gross negligence does not apply to private companies because gross negligence is meant to be an exception to governmental immunity. Others may attempt to apply gross negligence law nevertheless, recognizing the private company may be providing a governmental function like health care. This is a sophisticated argument best addressed by experienced attorneys like Chapman Law Group which can point out the subtle variations between state law and immunity and negligence issues.
Navigating complex litigation including gross negligence with other legal claims is not for the faint-hearted. The attorneys of Chapman Law Group have 25 years of experience traversing and winning gross negligence claims on both the State and Federal level and can provide the kind of sophisticated argument and depth of experience to help you win litigation and dismiss these claims.