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But, this lower standard of culpability does not apply to a government employee such as Wilson. In reaching this conclusion, the Circuit Court refers to its holding in another case involving the death of a firefighter during training, Waybright vs. Frederick County, Maryland (2008). In that case, the court concluded that the department’s conduct might have been negligent, but it rejected the concept that deliberate indifference to an employee’s safety was a civil rights violation by noting that the employee could walk away. The court said its decision would depend on whether the department intended to harm recruits. The plaintiff conceded that was not the case and so the civil rights claim was rejected.
While the appeals court found no civil rights violation, it noted that the state liability claims are not affected by this decision. Indeed, it concludes, “the facts alleged in this case reveal a sad story that might well support state tort claims or other state law claims.” And so, more than five years after the tragedy, the litigation between the city and its deceased recruit continues.