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Firefighters settle lawsuit on emergency radios

The Kansas City Star, Tuesday, May 9, 2000, By Matt Stearns

Firefighters settle lawsuit on emergency radios

Four Kansas City firefighters have settled their lawsuit against the manufacturer of the city’s emergency radio system and two other defendants, bringing to an end litigation by local public servants against the radio company.

The firefighters sued Ericsson Inc. two years ago in Jackson County Court, after a Dec. 11, 1997, house fire in which all four were injured. The lawsuit alleged that the radios failed while they were in the house at 4621 Agnes Ave., exposing them to serious harm.

The lawsuit also named as defendants SFA Inc., a company that served Kansas City as consultant on radio specifications, and Lonnie Bond, the homeowner.

Terms of the settlement were confidential, said Brian McCallister, the attorney for the firefighters.

“My concern has been and always will be that it will take someone being killed to make Ericsson wake up and smell the hummus,” McCallister said. “I think the lesson for firefighters to this day is, don’t depend on Ericsson radios to save your life.”

A lawyer for Ericsson did not return calls seeking comment.

Scott Shachtman, an attorney for SFA, would not comment on the case.

Two police officers represented by McCallister recently settled a similar lawsuit against Ericsson and SFA. The officers had been shot in 1996 while chasing a suspect. They claimed that their attempts to call for backup failed because their radios were not working.

The lawsuits stemmed from the installation in 1995 of an $18.5 million emergency radio system. The system’s signal strength was discovered to be too weak to penetrate some buildings, among other problems.

The city is upgrading the system.