Federal Signal Found Liable for Q-Siren Related Hearing Loss

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."

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

Check Also

Fire Law Headlines: New York and Miami-Dade Follow-Up

There are two cases in the Fire Law headlines today, both being follow-ups of cases we covered previously. In New York, the Supreme Court for Oswego County has ruled that individual taxpayers lack standing to challenge a tax increase imposed by a fire district.

RI Local Again Forced to Sue Town For Relief From Anti-Union Discipline

A Rhode Island IAFF union president who is facing termination for threatening his fire chief with a vote of no confidence, has filed suit claiming his termination constitutes retaliation for his union advocacy, his whistleblower activities, and for exercising his protected free speech rights. Captain David M. McGovern, currently the Acting Union President of Tiverton Firefighters IAFF Local 1703, filed suit in US District Court.