Some Boca Raton, West Palm Beach & Palm Beach County firefighters sue over siren noise

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Firefighters who have worked for Palm Beach County Fire Department, Boca Raton Fire Department or West Palm Beach Fire Department are asking for a total of $3.45 million in a lawsuit against Federal Signal Corporation because they say they suffered permanent, irreversible hearing loss from what they said are the company’s “defective” and “unreasonably dangerous” sirens.

Twenty-three current or former firefighters are listed as plaintiffs in the suit.

The lawsuit states Federal Signal didn’t provide proper warnings about “the dangerous propensities of the noise emitted by the sirens,” which “emit intense omni-directional noise at a pitch and decibel level which is unreasonably dangerous to Plaintiffs.”

The plaintiffs were required to ride on fire apparatuses, which had Federal Signal sirens.

Joe Cappelli, of Bern Cappelli LLP, the law firm that filed this suit, said the sirens have an improper design, which allows for noise to travel rearward toward the firefighters as opposed to localizing the sound forward and into the sides.

“Sirens emit intense noise at levels which, over time, are capable of causing permanent injury to human hearing,” the lawsuit states. “Sirens also emit high-intensity sounds within a narrow frequency range, which cause permanent injury to human hearing.”

The plaintiffs claim their hearing has permanently decreased, which affects their ability to “enjoy life and life’s pleasures.”

Federal Signal should’ve known that its products were hazardous to human hearing and should’ve warned customers that repeated exposure to the noise the sirens produce would be harmful, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs say they’ve had to pay medical costs in connection with their hearing loss, which they first became aware of when they had audiological screenings for firefighters.

They’re seeking no more than $75,000 each in damages for strict liability and $75,000 each for negligence.

Cappelli said the law firm has filed multiple cases against Federal Signal, some of which have resulted in verdicts favorable for the firefighters and some in favor of Federal Signal. Cases have come from Philadelphia, Chicago, New York and New Jersey.

Verdicts have resulted in as much as $100,000 for an individual firefighter, he said.

Cappelli said several years ago, a lawsuit in Pennsylvania against Federal Signal with about 1,000 plaintiffs was settled.

He said the company still sells the sirens in question.

The company has not yet issued a comment about the lawsuit.

“Sirens are vital public safety products and save lives," said J. David Duffy, an attorney for Federal Signal Corporation. "Federal Signal has strong defenses to these cases and has prevailed in a string of jury trials.  Federal Signal is committed to defending its quality siren products and will litigate these cases as necessary.”

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