Family Of Fallen Maryland Firefighter Recruit Files Civil Rights Claim

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) _ The parents of a Frederick County firefighter who died from heat exhaustion during training have added civil-rights violations to their claims against the county.

The amendment broadens the options that a Frederick County Circuit Court judge can consider as she weighs arguments on the county's pending motion to dismiss James and Shirley Waybright's wrongful death lawsuit, their lawyer, Kenneth M. Berman, said.

The original complaint claimed that fire academy training officers and other county officials were negligent in Andrew Waybright's death. In the amended lawsuit, the Waybrights, of Gettysburg, Pa., allege that the defendants permitted practices and procedures that deprived their son of his constitutional rights, namely his life, Berman said in a written statement Thursday.

``Our research clearly shows that the county's policies deliberately permitted the training officer to put Andrew Waybright's life at grave risk. The state and federal constitutions do not allow public officials to do that to either its employees or its citizens,'' Berman said.

The county's lawyer, Thomas V. McCarron, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on the amended complaint.

Andrew Waybright, 23, of Gettysburg, collapsed in humid, 84-degree heat near the end of an hour-long workout on July 2, 2002. A local board of inquiry found that trainees were denied water and that an instructor refused help from passers-by after failing to recognize Waybright's symptoms as heatstroke.

At a hearing Nov. 17, Circuit Judge Julie Stevenson Solt dismissed four of the 13 counts in the original complaint after both sides agreed that the parents were not dependents of the deceased. She said she would rule in writing by mid-December on the county's motion to dismiss the remaining counts, but she had not done so as of Thursday. The courthouse was closed Friday.

In seeking dismissal, the county argued that since its insurer paid Waybright's medical and funeral expenses, it is immune from the wrongful death claim under the Workers Compensation Act. Local government employers are shielded from wrongful death claims in cases covered by workers compensation.

Berman countered that no benefits were paid directly to the Waybrights, leaving them free to sue the county.

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