Perseverance pays. Melick & Porter’s Christian Hinrichsen initially used a release to obtain dismissal of negligence claims against a soccer club for holding practice on an allegedly unsafe field. The court, however, permitted plaintiff to move the case forward on a gross negligence theory. Christian aggressively pursued summary judgment at the close of discovery arguing that plaintiff lacked sufficient facts to support a verdict on this theory. Three days before the start of trial, Superior Court Justice Rosemary Connolly rendered a decision agreeing with Christian that plaintiff could not meet this heightened burden. Her decision is notable for its discussion of the distinction between negligence and gross negligence under Massachusetts law. “Gross negligence” is very great negligence, or absence of slight diligence, or want of even scant care. Justice Connolly found that there was no evidence defendant: (1) had notice of any specific danger; (2) should have known of some extraordinary danger; (3) proceeded with practice despite being warned of a dangerous condition; or (4) violated any statute or regulation. In the absence of such facts, she concluded that no reasonable jury could find that the defendant’s culpability exceeded ordinary negligence, and granted summary judgment on the gross negligence claim. Trial averted, and a great win for M&P’s client!
Release Leads to Victory