Firefighters join lawsuit claiming sirens led to hearing loss

The lawsuit claims the sirens exposed firefighters to "loud, excessive and harmful noise levels"

By Jim Lockwood
The Times-Tribune

SCRANTON, Pa. — Seventy retired and active firefighters from Scranton, Dunmore and Wilkes-Barre suing a siren manufacturer claim its devices caused hearing loss.

In five separate but similar lawsuits filed Tuesday in Lackawanna County Court, the firefighters — most of whom are retired — claim they suffered hearing losses from fire truck sirens manufactured by Federal Signal Corp. of Oak Brook, Illinois.

The lawsuits claim the company made and sold the Q-Siren and e-Q2B models of sirens that exposed firefighters to “loud, excessive and harmful noise levels,” including “high intensity sounds within a narrow frequency range,” pitch and decibel levels that can cause permanent hearing loss.

The suits allege the firm is negligent because it did not tell buyers about a “shroud” device the company had under development that, when fitted to sirens, reduced rearward noise and brought them into compliance with acceptable sounds levels for firefighters traveling on fire apparatus.

Each of the five lawsuits seeks monetary damages in excess of $50,000.

The complaints reflect several filed during the past several years by firefighters from various towns and cities throughout the nation against Federal Signal Corporation. The firm has claimed in recent press releases that such lawsuits have no merit and vowed to continue aggressive defenses against them.

“Federal Signal has strong defenses against these cases. We are defending these lifesaving products,” David Duffy, an attorney with the Thompson Coburn law firm in Chicago representing Federal Signal Corporation, said Wednesday. “We will try these cases as necessary to get them resolved.”

The five lawsuits in Lackawanna County initially were filed 12 years ago in Illinois, where numerous other such suits also have been filed, said the local plaintiffs’ attorney, Todd O’Malley of the Scranton-based O’Malley & Langan law firm.

Earlier this year, a judge in Illinois ordered that siren negligence lawsuits against Federal Signal Corporation instead should be filed where alleged hearing losses occurred, meaning in the states where the firefighters worked. The order dismissed out-of-state lawsuits filed in Illinois, but gave plaintiffs six months to file their lawsuits anew in their own states, O’Malley said.

The local cases arose after hearing losses were noticed among the plaintiffs years ago, and tests of the 70 firefighters displayed a characteristic hearing loss of certain high frequencies, O’Malley said.

“We had all of them tested and all came back with same high frequency hearing loss,” he said. “In the trade, they call it a firefighter’s notch.”

The Scranton, Dunmore and Wilkes-Barre firefighters filed five lawsuits with seven to 17 plaintiffs per case, instead of just one suit with all plaintiffs together, to make the cases more manageable, O’Malley said. The lawsuits do not specify in which department each firefighter worked.

The local firefighters named as plaintiffs are: Thomas Andrejack, Robert Armitage, Paul Batyko, Ralph Borgia, Charles Braz, Frank Burke, Robert Burnside, Michael Calpin, Donald Compton, Jim Cooney, Thomas Czyzyk, Peter Delfino Sr., Robert Durkin, Vincent Dutkevitch, James Fanning, Anthony Fargione, James Floryshak, Bernard Garvey, Gerald Garvey, Thomas Gervasi, John Gilbride, Paul Golden, Robert Golden, Robert Grisko, Gary Guesto, Kelly Hopkins, Clement Jacklinski, Jude Kane, Joe Keegan, Paul King, George Kohler, Gerald Kolodzieski, John Koval, Robert Koval, Michael Lally, Fred Lance, Nelson Lanning, John Loscombe, Donald Love, Leonard Lowry, John Malecki, John McDonnell, John McGowan, Robert Milewski, Martin Monahan, Gene O’Hora, James Palutis, Anthony Patte, Kenneth Pembridge, Andrew Peranick, William Piazza, Eugene Rempe, Roger Rogalewicz, John Ruby, Jim Sable, Ed Smith, Leo Southard, Michael Stine, Robert Strong, John Sweeney, Joseph Sznyter, Richard Tomasello, John Tomchik, Fredrick Voelker,William Wagner, Anthony Walsh, Paul Walsh, Frank Waznak, Jeffrey White and Robert Williams.

Copyright 2017 The Times-Tribune

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