By: Staff Writers | Published: March 5th, 2010
A Philadelphia jury has awarded a firefighter $100,000 in a hearing loss lawsuit filed over the design of sirens used by the city’s emergency response vehicles. The case is one of several hundred similar lawsuits involving hearing damage for firefighters caused by Q-Sirens, made by Federal Signal Corp..
More than 600 firefighter hearing loss lawsuits in Pennsylvania state court are coordinated as a mass tort in the Philadelphia against Federal Signal. The product liability lawsuits allege that the Q-Sirens were negligently designed and unreasonably dangerous, because they emit an intense noise that can cause permanent hearing damage for firefighters over time.
After four days of deliberation, a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas jury ruled in favor of firefighter Edward Smyl on Tuesday, in the first case to go to trial in the state. Smyl claimed to suffer hearing loss after working for the Philadelphia Fire Department between 1975 and 2007.
The jury found Federal Signal to be guilty of negligence and awarded $100,000 in damages, but disagreed with strict liability charges also filed by the plaintiff. According to a report in The Legal Intelligencer, the award will be capped at $75,000 under an agreement reached between the parties that kept the case in state court.
Federal Signal announced in a press release on Wednesday that it intends to appeal the verdict. The company says that the ruling against strict liability charges proves that the sirens were not defectively designed, and the award of damages on a negligence theory should be reversed.
In similar lawsuits over hearing loss among firefighters filed against Federal Signal throughout the United States, the company has been successful in defending many of the cases. A lawsuit filed by New York firefighters was dismissed, and the decision was upheld on appeal last summer. In addition, voluntary dismissals have been obtained for cases filed in Maryland, New Jersey and Missouri. However, the company reports that litigation is ongoing in Philadelphia and Chicago.