Allegations of negligence made by the family of a man who was shot and killed during firearms training are suspended by the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
In the Estate of Gorman v. State of Mississippi the Supreme Court of Mississippi upheld a court ruling that issued a summary judgment to the man's employer.
John Ballard Gorman worked for the Mississippi Gaming Commission. During a training session, he was shot dead by his co-worker and instructor for weapons training, Robert Sharp, due to the disappearance of the security protocol, according to court documents.
A review board found that the incident was the result of an unintentional release of an agency weapon and that a "significant contributing factor" was that the firearms instructor did not follow prescribed policies, procedures, lesson plans and safety protocols. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation classified the death due to "extremely negligent firearm emissions" by Sharp.
Mr. Gorman's family received compensation for workers, but the family also sued the Gambling Commission for negligence. The Commission brought a summary judgment, arguing that the exclusivity provision in the State Compensation Act prevented further recovery. A district court granted a summary judgment to the Commission and the Gorman family appealed.
The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the district court's decision, arguing that the record lacked evidence that Sharp actually intended to harm Gorman in training.
Although Mr Gorman's family claimed that Sharp's actions to "ignore any security check" on the day of the incident were an "intentional" act, the court noted that Sharp testified that he did not know his firearm was loaded and that there was no evidence in order for a fact-seeker to conclude that Sharp "had a real intention to harm" Mr. Gorman.