Brian Wood and João Medeiros Obtain Dismissal of So-Called “Gross Negligence” Claim Against Health Club

July 1, 2016

Minnesota common law does not recognize a separate claim of “gross negligence.” That is the conclusion reached by a district court judge in dismissing a lawsuit brought against a local health club represented by attorneys Brian Wood and João Medeiros. Instead, Minnesota courts only apply the concept of “gross negligence” when required to do so because the legislature has use the term in a statute or the parties have used the term in a contract.
The plaintiff was a member of the health club who initially sued for negligence, claiming to have been injured by hot steam in the club’s steam room. But Wood and Medeiros pointed out that the health club’s membership agreement waived the negligence claim.
The plaintiff attempted to save the lawsuit by amending the claim and alleging that the health club had not only been negligent, it had been “grossly” negligent. Relying on more than a century of Minnesota legal history stating that Minnesota does not distinguish between degrees of negligence, Wood and Medeiros asked the Court to dismiss the amended claim. The Court agreed. It dismissed the negligence claim based on the membership agreement and dismissed the “gross negligence” claim because it was not recognized by Minnesota law.
The Court also held that the new consumer contracts statute regulating waivers of “greater-than-ordinary negligence,” Minnesota Statutes § 604.055, did not apply to the membership agreement, which was signed before the effective date of the statute.