Firefighter Hearing Loss
Jordan Margolis is the originator and Chairman of the Firefighter and EMT Hearing Loss Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice (AAJ).
THE MARGOLIS FIRM PC is privileged to represent thousands of AMERICA'S HEROES from across the United States, all of whom have suffered Permanent Hearing Loss from Unreasonably Dangerous and Defective Sirens. Siren warnings are only necessary to warn approaching traffic, not Fire Fighters on their Emergency Vehicles. These Defective Sirens can easily be focused forward to significantly reduce the rearward, unnecessary daily noise exposures.
Although studies have proven that the traditional sirens are ineffective warning devices, and the trade industry is aware of safer and more effective alternatives, the manufacturers refuse to eliminate, reduce or adequately warn against the hazards of permanent hearing loss to emergency personnel. Unfortunately, Firefighters can't protect themselves by wearing ear plugs, since they need to communicate en route.
Breaking News: THE MARGOLIS FIRM PC has received a favorable Appellate Court Decision, Affirming Our Prior Jury Verdict of $445,000 on behalf of 9 Chicago Fire Fighters who suffered permanent hearing loss from sirens.
Breaking News: THE MARGOLIS FIRM PC is excited to announce that the prestigious, nationally recognized law firm NAPOLI BERN RIPKA SHKOLNIK LLP has become Affilitated with our Fire Fighter Hearing Loss Litigation. The firm was Lead Counsel in the World Trade Center Disaster Site Litigation and Settlement. http://www.nbrlawfirm.com/
If you are a Firefighter, EMT or a lawyer who represents Firefighters and wish to become involved in the Hearing Loss Litigation, please call our office immediately.
Jury Verdict For Firefighters
News & Trends
Firefighters win first hearing-loss case against siren maker
Carmel Sileo, Associate Editor
A group of nine Illinois firefighters has won a judgment against Federal Signal Corp., a siren maker based in Oak Brook, Illinois. The verdict is the first in favor of firefighters who have been suing the company since 1999, claiming its sirens damaged their hearing. Until now, similar cases have been dismissed or decided in favor of Federal Signal. (Rago v. Fed. Signal Corp., No. 99-L-004752 (Cook Co. Cir. Feb. 20, 2009).)
The long-awaited verdict could be a hopeful sign for the next ones in line; over 2,500 pending cases are consolidated into one mass tort in Cook County. The next trial is scheduled for July.
We learned from the first trial, and now we're not going away until we have a global settlement,? said Jordan Margolis, the Chicago lawyer who represents the firefighters.
Margolis said the ruling establishes that sirens are dangerous, particularly for firefighters riding in the back of fire trucks, who receive the most concentrated levels of sound intensity.
There is no problem with having them very loud up front - you want other drivers to know a fire truck is coming down the road, he said. The problem is that sirens need to focus the sound forward, not backward.
Margolis said his experts were able to design a new siren that reduced the amount of sound traveling to the back of the truck. Federal Signal said it could not be done, he said, but we did it.
Margolis said Federal Signal has relied on guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) about the amount of daily exposure workers can safely experience. But that average, he said, focuses on the amount and ignores the intensity of the sound, which is what caused the firefighters' hearing loss. Further, he noted, firefighters are not required to wear ear protection because they need to communicate with each other during an emergency.
Federal Signal chose to ignore the firefighters as the end users, Margolis said, and thought of the individual fire departments as its customers. It never thought about the actual people who would be using the equipment, and as a result did no testing and made no attempt to mitigate the harm that their sirens were causing.
They want to blame the city of Chicago, he said, because the firefighters didn't use protection, but they can't rely on that. They have a nondelegable duty to make their product safe and can't put the onus on someone else.
A plot twist in the case came in 2005, when Margolis discovered that one of Federal Signal's experts, who had published a study that found no siren-induced hearing loss in firefighters, was paid by the company to selectively report the study's results. The Cook County Circuit Court granted Margolis's motion to sanction the siren maker for discovery abuse after company representatives falsely denied they had documents related to the study. The court fined Federal Signal and barred the study's author from testifying as an expert. (See Siren Manufacturer Sanctioned for Failing to Disclose Ties to Expert, Study, 26 Prods. Liab. L. Rptr. 100 (2007), www.justice.org/resources/PLLR2007June.pdf.)
Federal Signal said it plans to appeal the verdict. In a statement, the company cited a string of successes in earlier cases, including an April 2008 defense verdict in Cook County and dismissals of other firefighter claims in the county, as well as in Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, and New York.
Margolis acknowledged that the litigation has been far from easy but said he and the plaintiffs have learned from hard experience.
The first trial was like the exhibition game in the preseason, he said. Now we are getting into the regular season and we're here to stay.
Carmel Sileo, Associate Editor