Gross negligence refers to behavior that demonstrates a conscious disregard or indifference for the safety, life or rights of others. It differs from ordinary negligence, which is defined as “a violation of a general duty to behave with reasonable care.” Instead, gross negligence has the added feature of recklessness.
An example of gross negligence is a father who repeatedly allows his ten-year-old son to operate a tractor without supervision. The young boy runs over a man and, as a result, the man’s leg is amputated. The jury subsequently awards the victim compensatory and punitive damages. This is because the child’s father encouraged his young son to operate a tractor without adult supervision. The jury finds that such behavior constitutes gross negligence.