Buffalo Firefighters Sue Siren Manufacturer over Hearing Loss

Over 100 firefighters join others in claim over damaged hearing

 

About 20 lawsuits filed in state court were moved to federal court in Buffalo a week ago. In the lawsuits, 193 individuals follow in the footsteps of employees of fire departments in at least five other states who have sued siren makers. The firefighters since 1999 have claimed hearing loss from repeated exposure to sirens in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, New Jersey, Maryland and New York.  READ MORE

 

Is this going too far?

 

What are you doing to prevent hearing loss?

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Don Catenacci said:

John,

You can believe whatever you want. When I retired hearing protection was available in every rig but there was no mandatory policy in place stating you had to wear it. 

Believe whatever I want? How so Don? Are you saying the dept I'm affiliated with was some sort of forerunner in hearing conservation because something was in place years ago? The same program in place circa the same time I was serving in the Navy? My point here Don, is hearing conservation programs were not something brand new in the last 20 years, but were in place in many industries. If your depts did not have such a program in place, does that mean they were non-existent then?

 

OK, lets look even at that. You claim your dept had no mandatory policy in place to wear hearing protection. So in light of such statement, who should be more liable to a hearing loss lawsuit then? Your dept, that should have had a policy in place, or the siren mfgr? Hell Don, you were an instructor at MATC when I was going there and I know there was hearing policy in place for students then, can you now claim you were not aware of such hazards because your dept didn't have such a policy?

 

Sirens are loud, they are supposed to be, yet there are many depts out there that have had such programs in place. To claim the siren mfgr is at fault, without looking at an individual dept policy, is stretching things and appears frivolous. If the dept did not have a policy in place, then who really would be at fault for such hearing loss? If the dept did have a policy in place and there was hearing loss, then how do you definitively assert the cause of hearing loss is directly attributed to the sirens?

 

The issue is hearing loss is gradual, something I learned many years ago. I also learned that unless there is a documented policy and you can attest to ALWAYS wearing your hearing protection, the chance of winning such a lawsuit is difficult. This means that you wear hearing protection on the job and also in any hobbies and so forth that you may partake in like shooting guns, working with power tools, mowing the lawn, woodworking, wearing it at a concert, etc. Quite frankly directly attributing hearing loss to a sole source is difficult to prove and could be easily dismissed unless one can prove the mfgr is solely at fault. I just don't see this happening.

 

As for calling out the guys as whiners and stupid, I know you didn't say it directly, but I never did, nor would I. I believe, in my opinion, the lawsuit is frivolous considering the factors I denoted. If the dept was like yours, and did not have a hearing conservation program, then where do you think the first line of defense lies? Can you attest to seeing drivers not yielding until right on top of them? Can you say there was never a gripe from drivers claiming they didn't hear the sirens? Just because your dept failed to have a hearing conservation program doesn't make things widespread. Even if the dept had hearing protection available, but no policy stating you had to wear it, then who is at fault Don? You, or the dept, or the mfgr?

 

John,

I am claiming nothing other than the implied blanket statement that EVERYONE has had a mandatory hearing conservation program in place for decades is untrue when I know for a fact otherwise is true.

I never said one way or the other whether I believe in the validity of the lawsuit.  What I said was people on here calling firefighters stupid and whiners without being an insider and understanding the basis for the lawsuit is ignorant and vindictive.

I DO wear hearing protection while engaged in my hobbies and mowing my lawn, cutting trees, and so on.

Lastly, I never called you out here, unless YOU called these firefighters whiners or stupid.  You are making this personal with me.  Let me ask you a question, ever take your SCBA off during overhaul?  Did the air get monitored first, EVERY TIME?  What did it get monitored for?  CO?  Anything else?  How about hydrogen cyanide?  So if in 20 years you get cancer who is responsible?  You for taking the mask off too soon...right?  Nonsense, you will file a claim under the cancer presumptive cause law and you know it.  All these firefighters are doing is trying to protect themselves financially.  I can't fault that and the courts will decide whether it is a valid complaint or not.    

Don,

I'm not claiming that everyone had such hearing conservation programs in place, but I AM saying that, that should be the first place to look. If the dept had no such program in place, then I ask, how could hearing loss be attributed to the mfgrs issue and not a departmental??? That is the basis here, one can claim whatever the hell they want, but the issue lies in proof. I can attest there were depts, circa timeframe here, that have had hearing conservation programs in place, as well as other outside the fire service industries. Just because an individual dept may not have one, does that make the mfgr responsible for hearing loss?

 

As for cancer presumption etc, Don, let's be honest, hearing protection and conservation is not there. Even in WI for heart, lung and cancer, one has to have a ten yr service before being eligible. Although you do make a valid point in HCN and CO. I can attest that my department definately has such a program in place. In fact my shift crewmembers just gave the first CYANOKIT to a civilian this morning. Air monitoring has improved, but was in place since I started, so yes, in my case personally, I can say with a definitive "yes", that such monitoring is in place.

 

The satisfying aspect here in WI is that we do have heart, lung, cancer, and infectious disease presumptive, worked hard for by many, and very much so appreciatied. Hearing protection is another animal and more difficult to attribute presumptive laws to, especially in regards to personal hobbies, etc. Yeah, we don't know the details attributed to the hearing loss, but as the article asks for opinion, IMO, I see this as frivolous. I see it as frivolous because of the points I have made before from the first post since. Yes, I do not know all the circumstances and pending more info, my opinion may change. I'm speaking on behalf of what I know and experienced in the same time frame such suits attest. To me, I see a dept more at fault than a mfgr and that really is the bottom line.

 

Talk to the 2 firefighters in Wauwatosa that not only were denied those presumptive benefits by the city but also FIRED.  They both have won their cases in court only to have the city appeal those decisions.  So don't tell me that it is a guarantee you will receive it in a timely manner or at all if your city puts up the battle.  The battle has been raging for almost 2 years there.

I'm familiar with the BS from Tosa in regards to the two involved. That has nothing to do with the fact that hearing conservation is not on the same page as presumptive laws. Once again the issue here is the FFs suing the mfgr for hearing loss, when IMO, the first place to be looking is the dept. Why should a mfgr be liable for something a dept should have implemented? If such programs were implemented, then the proof is showing that hearing protection was always worn. If it was always worn, then this furthers to prove that it was the mfgr at fault and nothing else. I see this as an uphill battle to prove, and there are no presumptive laws to help the case. I further see this as the FF equivalent of spilling hot coffee on yourself and claiming you didn't know the contents were hot because of no label.

And I see it as a smart lawyer probably that researched this and saw  that siren manufacturers had no warning label discussing hearing protection being required and going after the deepest pockets.

Again, I am not an insider on this lawsuit. I have no more details than are online.

Um, YOU brought the presumptive cancer law into the discussion.

Don,

First, I agree, this suit is most likely about some lawyers going after the deepest pockets. I said that in my very first post and I reiterated it in a response to you later. After all, there is no other reason to be going after a siren mfgr, except for the deep pockets, yet realistically, if looking to place blame, a dept should be looked at too. No warning labels? Yeah, that may be their push, but this just goes to show that common sense is even more troubled that we have our own brothers making the same case as a warning label for hot coffee. Yet the fact remains that this becomes a difficult issue to prove, considering so many other factors that can contribute to hearing loss. Running power tools for rig checks, cutting the grass, etc, etc, all can factor in, let alone one's hobbies. Again I find the lawsuit frivolous.

 

As for cancer presumptive, better look back at who brought that topic up Don. Go back to your first post on this page (2). Do you remember typing this?

 

Lastly, I never called you out here, unless YOU called these firefighters whiners or stupid.  You are making this personal with me.  Let me ask you a question, ever take your SCBA off during overhaul?  Did the air get monitored first, EVERY TIME?  What did it get monitored for?  CO?  Anything else?  How about hydrogen cyanide?  So if in 20 years you get cancer who is responsible?  You for taking the mask off too soon...right?  Nonsense, you will file a claim under the cancer presumptive cause law and you know it.  All these firefighters are doing is trying to protect themselves financially.  I can't fault that and the courts will decide whether it is a valid complaint or not.

 

I never brought up cancer presumptive until you mentioned it.

I apologize for my  slip up on the presumptive cancer comment.

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