FDNY Hearing Loss Case Reinstated

One hundred and fifty FDNY firefighters who filed suit in Pennsylvania against American LaFrance and Federal Signal Corporation, got good news yesterday as the Pennsylvania Superior Court reinstated their hearing loss claims.

The firefighters were grouped into seven separate cohorts that filed separate lawsuits in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in 2015, and consolidated into one case for purposes of the appeal. As best I can tell, the seven original cases were:

  • Murray et al v. American LaFrance et al 2015 No. 02536
  • Burns et al v. American LaFrance et al 2015 No. 02494
  • Moreno et al v. American LaFrance et al 2015 No. 02522
  • Feldman et al v. American LaFrance et al 2015 No. 02514
  • Barbarise et al v. American LaFrance et al 2015 No. 00187
  • Adams et al v. American LaFrance et al 2015 No. 002490
  • Abbott et al v. American LaFrance et al 2015 No. 002492

Federal Signal argued that Pennsylvania courts were without personal jurisdiction over it because:

  • its principal place of business is in Illinois;
  • it does not have corporate offices in Pennsylvania;
  • it is not a Pennsylvania domestic company;
  • it does not own or lease real property in Pennsylvania;
  • it does not have bank accounts in Pennsylvania;
  • it does not design or manufacture any products in Pennsylvania; and
  • its contacts with Pennsylvania are minimal.

On May 25, 2016, the trial court dismissed all seven cases agreeing with Federal Signal that it lacked sufficient minimal contacts with Pennsylvania to allow its courts to have personal jurisdiction over it. That prompted the firefighters to appeal to the Superior Court. In a 2-1 decision handed down September 25, 2018, the Superior Court reversed, concluding that Federal Signal:

  • registered as a foreign corporation to do business in Pennsylvania. In doing so, we hold that it consented to general personal jurisdiction in Pennsylvania. Therefore… we conclude that the trial court erred when it dismissed these actions for lack of personal jurisdiction.

The case was remanded back to the Court of Common Pleas to resume dealing with the merits of the firefighters’ claims. Here is a copy of the decision: Murray v. Am. Lafrance_ 2018 Pa. Super. LEXIS 1064

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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