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48 La. L. Rev. 1383 (1987-1988)
Reflections on Willful, Wanton, Reckless, and Gross Negligence

handle is hein.journals/louilr48 and id is 1397 raw text is: COMMENTS
The terms willful, wanton, reckless, and gross negligence
are all frequently used in the law to describe certain types of conduct,
but it is difficult to articulate clearly what those types of conduct are.
Sometimes these words are given the same meaning and are grouped
under a single recklessness classification,' while at other times they
are treated as though they refer to separate standards of conduct.2 One
court, dismayed over the difficulty involved in the interpretation and
application of these terms, has aptly observed that they do little more
than to establish a twilight zone which exists somewhere between
ordinary negligence and intentional injury.3 Nevertheless, lawmakers
nationwide appear content to live in this twilight zone, for they
continue to use these terms despite their vagueness. The Louisiana Leg-
islature, no exception to this general rule, has in several recent .pieces
of legislation used various combinations of the terms willful, wanton,
reckless, and gross negligence to define standards applicable to
exceptions to tort immunity statutes,4 to solidary liability,5 and to the
award of exemplary damages.6
Copyright 1988, by LOUISIANA LAW REVIEW.
1. Throughout this comment, the term reckless is used as an equivalent of the
words willful, wanton, reckless, and grossly negligent. This scheme is utilized
by the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 500 (1965). The comments to § 500 indicate that
wanton and willful are included in the recklessness category, and courts have
indicated that gross negligence is also included. See, e.g., Williamson v. McKenna,
223 Or. 366, 345 P.2d 56, 66 (1960).
2. W. Prosser and W. Page Keeton, The Law of Torts § 34 (5th ed. 1984) [hereinafter
cited as Prosser and Keeton].
3. Pleasant v. Johnson, 312 N.C. 710, 714, 325 S.E.2d 244, 247 (1985).
4. Several Louisiana statutes now provide tort immunity for several classes of persons
and institutions. These statutes include La. R.S. 9:2792-2792.4 (Supp. 1988) (all protecting
board members of non-profit organizations); La. R.S. 9:2793 (Supp. 1988) (protecting
providers of gratuitous emergency care); La. R.S. 9:2791 (1965) (protecting landowners
allowing access to their land for recreational purposes); La. R.S. 9:2795 (Supp. 1988)
(protecting organizers and members of Mardi Gras parades); La. R.S. 9:2800.4 (Supp.
1988) (protecting owners of farms and forests from liability for injuries suffered by
trespassers); La. R.S. 9:2798 (Supp. 1988) (protecting volunteer athletic coaches and
physicians); La. R.S. 9:2798.1 (Supp. 1988) (protecting discretionary acts of public entities
or officers); and La. R.S. 9:2800 (Supp. 1988) (protecting public bodies).
5. La. Civ. Code art. 2324.
6. La. Civ. Code arts. 2315.3 and 2315.4.

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