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Jury To Mull Lawsuit Claiming Sirens Damaged Firefighters’ Hearing

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Chicago Fire Department's Engine 13 races down Randolph Street on its way to a call.  (credit: Steve Hardy/CBS Local)

Chicago Fire Department’s Engine 13 races down Randolph Street on its way to a call. (credit: Steve Hardy/CBS Local)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Closing arguments are expected Monday morning in the trial of a lawsuit that pits Chicago firefighters against the company that makes fire engine sirens.

In the lawsuit, eight Chicago firefighters allege that sirens manufactured by Oak Brook-based Federal Signal Corporation are responsible for hearing loss they have suffered.

Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 is urging firefighters to come to the Daley Center during the closing arguments, as the case goes to the jury.

So far, firefighters across the country have had met with mixed success in their lawsuits alleging hearing loss from Federal Signal sirens.

In 2009, a jury awarded a $425,000 judgment to nine Chicago firefighters in their lawsuit against the company, alleging that the company could have designed a siren using a higher frequency that would have been safer, the Daily Herald reported at the time.

But the year before, 27 Chicago firefighters lost their lawsuit against Federal Signal. That tie, attorney Jordan Margolis argued unsuccessfully that the company had a responsibility to warn firefighters of the dangers to their hearing, and failed to do so, the Daily Herald reported.

Allegations of 74 other firefighters in Cook County were dismissed, according to a news release.

In Philadelphia, one firefighter won a lawsuit against Federal Signal claiming hearing loss last year and was awarded $100,000, but nine other firefighters lost their lawsuit against the company.

Earlier this year, Federal Signal settled with 1,125 firefighters represented by attorney Joseph Cappelli, agreeing to pay $3.8 million. This came after 18 firefighters represented by Cappelli lost their case, and after all hearing loss lawsuits against Federal Signal in New York City, Maryland, New Jersey and Missouri were dismissed, according to a news release.

At the time of the settlement, Federal Signal expressed confidence in the ability to defend its products.

“As demonstrated in our recent trial victories, as well as our track record generally throughout this litigation, Federal Signal has strong defenses to these claims and we are committed to defending our siren products and litigating these cases as necessary,” Federal Signal general counsel Jennifer Sherman said in a news release. “Sirens are necessary public safety products and save lives.”

In addition to the Q-Sirens used on fire trucks, Federal Signal is also the maker of all the sirens that compose Chicago’s outdoor early warning system, as well as the previous generation of air raid sirens that were mounted on Chicago firehouses and public schools during the Cold War.

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