Maryland motorcyclists and all other drivers must exercise reasonable care at any time that they are on the road. At times, a driver’s lack of care goes beyond simple negligence. Under Maryland law, gross negligence refers to willful and wanton misconduct, which is considered as something more than simple negligence, and closer to reckless conduct. Gross negligence signifies conduct “in reckless disregard of the consequences” and the actor’s lack of concern for the effect on another person’s life or property. It also suggests a disregard of the consequences without any attempts to avoid them. Whether gross negligence was committed is fact-specific and is generally a question for a jury. A recent case is an example of a situation in which one state appeals court found that gross negligence may have resulted in a motorcycle crash.
According to the court’s opinion, a raceway obtained a license from a racing federation to hold federation-sanctioned motorcycle events. An association managed operations for the raceway. To control erosion, the association placed unmarked sandbags around the raceway. The association did not have any staff with experience or training in track safety, and the placement of sandbags violated federation standards. The plaintiff was competing in a motorcycle racing event and lost control of his motorcycle. He entered the safety zone, collided with the sandbags, and suffered serious injuries. He was not warned of the sandbags, which were the same color as the track.
The plaintiff filed a claim that alleged that the association was liable for gross negligence and that the county was liable for a dangerous condition of public property. After a trial court dismissed the claim, a state court of appeals reversed. The appeals court found that it might have been grossly negligent for the association to divert money to operations instead of erosion protection and to rely on the assessments of an executive with no track safety training. In addition, the raceway association could be found liable for a dangerous condition.