The term “gross negligence” refers to a person’s intentional failure to perform a manifest duty in reckless disregard of the consequences as affecting the life or property of another, such a gross want of care and regard for the rights of others as to justify the presumption of willfulness and wantonness.
“Negligence is gross if the precautions to be taken against harm are very simple, such as persons who are but poorly endowed with physical and mental capacities can easily take.” H.L.A. Hart, Punishment and Responsibility, 136, 149 (1968).
“Gross Negligence. As it originally appeared, this was very great negligence, or the want of even slight or scant care. It has been described as a failure to exercise even that care which a careless person would use. Several courts, however, dissatisfied with a term so nebulous . . . have construed gross negligence as requiring willful, wanton, or reckless misconduct, or such utter lack of all care as will be evidence thereof . . . But it is still true that most courts consider that ‘gross negligence’ falls short of reckless disregard of the consequences, and differs from ordinary negligence only in degree, and not in kind.” Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts § 34, at 211-12 (W. Page Keeton ed., 5th ed. 1984).
“Indifference to present legal duty and utter forgetfulness of legal obligations, so far as other persons may be affected, and manifestly smaller amount of watchfulness and circumspection than the circumstances require of a person of ordinary prudence.” Burke v. Cook, 246 Mass. 518.
“The want of slight diligence. The want of that care which every man of common sense, how inattentive soever, takes of his own property. The omission of that care which even inattentive and thoughtless men never fail to take of their own property. The want of ordinary diligence and care which usually prudent man takes of his own property of like description. In the law of torts (and especially with reference to personal injury cases), the term means such negligence as evidence a reckless disregard of human life, or of the safety of persons exposed to its dangerous effects, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of a conscious indifference to the rights of others which is equivalent to an intentional violation of them.” McDonald v. Railroad Co., 21 S.W. 775.
“Lata culpa, or, as the Roman lawyers most accurately call it) dolo proxima, is, in practice, considered as equivalent to dolus or fraud itself, and consists, according to the best interpreters, in the omission of that care which even inattentive and thoughtless men never fail to take of their own property. Jones on Bailments, 20. It must not be confounded, however, with fraud, for it may exist consistently with good faith and honesty of intention, according to common law authorities.” Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, 2d Edition (1856).