This Clause is identical to Cl. 56 of the 1964 Plan and corresponds to the relevant Nordic Insurance Contracts Acts (Nordic ICAs).
The Clause regulates cases where the assured brings about the casualty through gross negligence. Gross negligence lies somewhere between ordinary negligence and intent. Ordinary negligence occurs when the assured has not acted as a competent and reasonable person would have done in an equivalent situation. Gross negligence is a more specific form of negligence: the deviation between the conduct of the assured and the relevant norm is more pronounced. In case law, the courts have found gross negligence in the following cases: ND 1971.350 NH KARI-BJØRN, ND 1976.132 Gulating TUVA, and ND 1977.138 OSLO.
Both the Plan and the Nordic ICAs apply a progressive reduction of the insurance cover when the casualty has been caused by gross negligence. The Norwegian ICA Section 4-9, second paragraph, sets out a number of factors which are to be specifically taken into account in assessing the reduction: the degree of fault, the course of events relating to the damage, whether the assured was in a state of self-induced intoxication, and circumstances generally. Cl. 3-33 of the Plan refers simply to "the degree of fault and circumstances generally". "Circumstances generally" is such a wide-ranging expression that it includes the other factors listed in the relevant Nordic ICAs. In deep-water hull insurance, it will be especially the "course of events relating to the damage" which will be of significance for the reduction of the insurer’s liability. The factor of "self-induced intoxication" is more relevant to coastal hull insurance, but can also become relevant for deep-water hull cover, especially if there has been a delegation of the ship owning functions which entails that the assured must be identified with the ship's captain or officers, cf. Cl. 3-36. "Intoxication" means that intoxicating substances have influenced the user in such a way that he or she acts in a way other than would have been the case had he or she not consumed the intoxicating substances. It is not possible to link the definition of "intoxication" to a set alcohol percentage in the blood, as is done, for example, in Section 22 of the Norwegian Road Traffic Act (veitrafikkloven). A review must be made in each case of the effect of the intoxicating substance on the individual to determine whether the assured acted while intoxicated. It is thus possible to be "under the influence" within the meaning of the Road Traffic Act without being "intoxicated" within the meaning of the Plan.
If one of the subordinates of the assured, be it someone in the shipowner's management staff or one of the people on board, has caused the casualty through an error which must be deemed gross negligence, a decision must be made using the rules in Chapter 3, Section 6 of the Plan as to whether the insurer may invoke the error against the assured. Errors committed by the master or crew in their service as seamen on the insured ship can never be invoked by the insurer, cf. Cl. 3-36, sub-clause 1. Moreover, the result will depend on whether decision-making authority has been delegated in areas which are of material significance for the insurance, cf. Cl. 3-36, second sub-clause. Cases where the error has been committed on board another of the assured's ships than the one covered by the insurance, are dealt with under the "sister ship rule" in Cl. 4-16.
In cases where the owner works as master or a member of the crew on board, it was assumed on page 59 of the Commentary on the 1964 Plan that the courts would take account of the special position of the assured in their application of the discretionary scaling-down provided for in Cl. 56 of the 1964 Plan relating to gross negligence. The assured was thus to be awarded full or nearly full indemnity when there was no reason to suspect that the casualty was intentionally brought about. This assumption has been used in practice: see, for example, ND 1971.350 NH KARI-BJØRN; and the intention has been to maintain this approach in the Plan.
If the assured has brought about the casualty through ordinary negligence, the insurer will always be fully liable, cf. the corresponding rule in the relevant Nordic ICAs. This will not apply, however, when the negligence can be brought under the scope of other rules, e.g., the rules on breach of safety regulations. In cases where the gross negligence has related to a breach of a safety regulation, the courts have had a tendency in connection with insurance for small vessels to apply the rules on gross negligence instead of the rules on breach of safety regulations. The rationale has probably been that the rules on gross negligence offer the possibility for a discretionary reduction of cover, while the sanction for breaching a safety regulation is loss of cover in its entirety. It would be unfortunate if the same sort of tendency were to spread to deep-water hull insurance.