FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A recently retired Broward County firefighter has won a lawsuit that claimed his hearing was damaged by 27 years of exposure to loud sirens.

Fort Lauderdale city commissioners voted Wednesday to pay $50,000 to Bruce Wade to settle his workers' compensation claim for the hearing damage and an undisclosed condition related to his work.

He brought up the hearing damage claim last spring just before he retired.

The lawsuit sought $136,500. Besides the $50,000 settlement approved, the city had paid $43,000 on the claims already.

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Information from: South Florida Sun Sentinel, http://www.sun sentinel.com


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Gee... hearing protectors have been available and on the market for years... it's a shame this department did not invest the money in protecting the hearing of their firefighters. I guarantee that the amount of tax payer dollars spent on this lawsuit could have outfitted a lot of fire trucks with in-cab communications...

I believe this is called prevention... what a concept.

"Failure to prepare is preparing for Failure..."

CBz
Don't get me wrong, I am sorry that he suffered hearing loss. But thats part of the problem with our society, everyone is so damn sue happy. Everyone understands the risks that go along with their careers. Whats next? A prostitute suing her pimp because she got an STD.
Dang,

Why did he waited so long, all them years and waited close to retirement. He waited, and started the law suit one year before his retiring. He new the law suit wasn't going to be finished until close to his retirement.
Huh?
Don't get mad at the firefighter.
A doctor had to certify that the firefighter lost his hearing due to exposure to high noise while at work.
Then, he had to get his attorney who saw potential dollar signs.
Then, they had to get an expert witness to corroborate the doctor's diagnosis.
Then, the judge and/or jury had to buy it.
Here is what I don't understand. If you have employees who believe that they are being exposed to high noise levels, then you test for high noise. If it is above 85 decibels, then you have to reduce the noise to below 85 decibels or protect them with hearing protection. Then, each year, the employees have their hearing tested. The first ever test would establish the base line. Thereafter, shifts in high and low frequencies hearing would be tested and reported.
If this firefighter had done any of the above instead of waiting until retirement, he might still have good hearing, but he wouldn't be as well off. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I would guess that he will receive permanent disability checks in addition to the work comp and retirement.
Excuse me while I open the gate for more of this craziness.
Remember; as officers, you have to protect your people against themselves.
If this firefighter had done any of the above instead of waiting until retirement, he might still have good hearing, but he wouldn't be as well off.

First off, one has to question the innocence of the city here before jumping on the lawsuit bandwagon bash of this brother. Hearing loss cases are extremely hard to prove, especially if hobbies may involve noise exposure and so forth.
Secondly, it is the responsibility of the dept and city to have a hearing program in place, along with annual hearing tests for all FF's. It is also the responsibilty of the dept to supply FF's with proper hearing protection and even have SOG in place for hearing protection.

If the city did have everything in place, then it would be difficult to contend that a settlement should be paid, the city would have a good chance of having the judgement in their favor. Who really knows all the facts here, maybe the FF was having hearing tests done by his own doctor and had documentation in place where he made an issue about the sirens and decibel level and the dept ignored it. In the end I question more about the issues about the dept end of things because such a claim is difficult to win.
John:
I remember, vaguely, that some years ago, a similar lawsuit for hearing loss was filed by four firefighters in New York or maybe it was Boston, I believe.
If I recall, they lost.
I'm not jumping on the firefighter.
As I said, there have to be several benchmarks reached in order for something like this to occur.
But, let's not stop there. Think of all the possibilities. How loud is the engine when it is pumping at optimum capacity? How loud are the extrication tools? What about the lapel mike right next to the recipients' ear? The chief when he's screaming on the fireground?
Oh, but then, the turnouts, a slip from a ladder; it all becomes a question of whether or not enough was done at the time of the exposure to mitigate the exposure.
Just a thought.
Art
Art,
I'm not saying you are jumping on the FF, some other comments were. I highlighted your response because the implementation of a hearing program, regular hearing tests, the issue of hearing protection etc is the responsibilty of the employer, not the employee. That part makes it sound as though the FF in question should have done all this and perhaps he may have made an issue and could have been ignored.
Whatever the case though, I have seen other FF's here jump to conclusions about another FF after winning such a lawsuit. I'm just stating such a lawsuit is quite difficult to win and a hearing loss is difficult to prove it was just from the employer. If this guy won, then it leads me to believe the city isn't exactly innocent here, nor that this is just a case of a frivolous lawsuit, like say the coffe cup didn't say the coffee was hot.
This is not necessarily true - even in facilities/job sites where engineering controls are in place, some people still lose hearing even with appropriate use of hearing protection. They are still eligible to sue their employer - as they received an on-duty injury, regardless of the availability and use of hearing protection. Doesn't mean they'll win, but they can try it. Hobbies and off-duty activities in general do play a part in the diagnosis and suit, as you mentioned.

Interestingly, the way the work comp laws are written, the current employer is responsible for the current health status of the employee - so if this gentleman took a lateral to another department, THEY could be held responsible for his hearing loss. Lame...but how it is. Also, we know that genetics can play a part in hearing loss, and that some people are more prone to hearing loss....we just dont know who why or how. Because of that, employers usually bear the brunt of these things when it can be shown to be work related.

Just because you're having hearing testing done annually, AND you are using hearing protection devices, does not guarantee you will have no hearing loss. Firefighters lose about 1dB per year in the 2-4k hz hearing range on average - and this is double the background population. I will say that of most docs who are not ENTs, my experience is that they rarely have their audiometers calibrated - and practically NONE are CAOHC certified, the certification you must acquire to participate in occupational hearing conservation, so his own doc may not really qualify as an expert witness, and the records could be questionable. ENT/audiologists do not have to have this certification, because they are consulted when a hearing loss occurs, but whoever is running the department's program for hearing conservation (meaning the group that is doing the annual hearing testing) is required to.

most hearing loss cases, if awarded, are good for about $100-150k. Out of that money comes hearing aids (and not necessarily the high dollar digital ones), followup appointments, repeat testing, and hearing aid batteries for life. The lump sum payout to the employee is typically not gobs of money, and is quite in line with the award this gentleman received, so his likelihood of any monthly disability payments is very low.

I'm not bashing our brother - if he lost his hearing in the line of duty, which is statistically likely, then he may be due an award, that's for the courts. And I'm not bashing the department, as we dont have all the facts. I just want to put the info out there, as these cases are very complicated, and very easy to misunderstand.
This is Complete and Utter B.S. Crap like this is the reason there are warning labels on turn out gear.Bullard helmet label: "WARNING! FIREFIGHTING IS INHERENTLY DANGEROUS."..Well No SH_T! Even our beloved Federal Q2B's have warning labels on the siren it self now.What a Load.
I just want to put the info out there, as these cases are very complicated, and very easy to misunderstand.

Well thanks for the extra details and good info. Just seems some are quick to judge without knowing all the details or even circumstances.

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