A Pennsylvania jury has awarded a Philadelphia firefighter $100,000 in damages against Federal Signal Corp. for hearing loss associated with the venerable Federal Q-Sirens. Firefighter Edward Smyl alleged that the Q-Sirens were negligently designed, unreasonably dangerous, and emited such an intense noise that they permanently damaged his hearing. Smyl had been a firefighter in Philadelphia from 1975 to 2007.
The verdict was rendered on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 after four days of deliberation. The jury concluded that the Q-Sirens were not defectively designed, but that Federal Signal was nonetheless liable to Smyl under a negligence theory. On March 4, 2010 Federal Signal announced that it will appeal the jury’s verdict.
Smyl’s suit was not the first filed by firefighters against Federal Signal alleging hearing loss. In fact, according to the web site AboutLawsuits.com, there are over 600 separate lawsuits are pending against Federal Signal in Pennsylvania alone, a claim I cannot independently verify. However, there are several other well known cases that have been filed against Federal Signal over the past few years, including cases in New York, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Missouri.
A New York court dismissed a similar products liability suit brought by four New York City Firefighters against Federal Signal for hearing loss, and the dismissal was affirmed by an appeals court in June 2009. Federal Signal was granted a summary judgment in January, 2010, in a suit brought by another Philadelphia firefighter, and obtained a stipulated entry of summary judgment in November, 2009 in a suit brought by two other Philadelphia firefighters.
A 2008 Illinois case involving 27 firefighter plaintiffs alleging hearing loss resulted in a defense verdict for Federal Signal. A second Illinois case involved the consolidated claims of nine firefighters, and resulted in a jury verdict for the firefighters in February, 2009. Federal Signal is appealing that verdict. The hearing loss claims of some 74 other Illinois firefighter plaintiffs were dismissed in the interim.
In regards to the Smyl verdict, Jennifer Sherman, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, General Counsel and Secretary, is quoted in the press as having said "We are very pleased that the jury rejected the claim that Federal Signal's sirens were defectively designed. This verdict is consistent with the many successes Federal Signal has had over the past several years in defending the Company's life-saving products. That said, we are disappointed that the jury proceeded to award damages to the plaintiff. We believe that the damage award cannot stand in light of the jury's verdict that our sirens are not defective, and we will seek to overturn that verdict."