Missouri Appellate Courts Uphold $27 Million Jury Verdict Which With Interest Resulted in $40.4 Million Paid to Firefighter's Family

News Release, Schlichter Bogard & Denton

Recently, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed a jury verdict in the amount of $27 million with pre and post judgment interest that Schlichter Bogard & Denton obtained for Angela Martin, widow of St. Louis firefighter Derek Martin, and their three children. Partner Jerry Schlichter tried the case. The Missouri Supreme Court also upheld the verdict, declining further review of the case. In January 2010, the verdict was paid in full with pre and post judgment interest for a total amount of $40.4 million.

After a 5 week trial, the jury returned its verdict, finding that defective firefighting safety equipment manufactured by Survivair Respirators, Inc. and Bacou-Dalloz, S.A. caused Mr. Martin's death. The jury's verdict consisted of $12 million in compensatory damages to the family and $15 million for punitive damages against the two companies. Because the companies had refused to meet the family's settlement demand which the firm issued several years earlier, approximately $8 million in prejudgment interest was added to the jury's verdict. The judgment continued to accrue interest while on appeal, increasing the total amount to over $40.4 million, which Survivair and Bacou-Dalloz paid in full. The jury's verdict was one of the largest in the United States in 2007, and is one of the largest judgments for wrongful death ever collected in full with interest.

In upholding the award of punitive damages, the Missouri Court of Appeals found that Survivair and Bacou-Dalloz's conduct in attempting to cover up numerous reports of defects in the firefighting safety equipment was "unquestionably reprehensible." At trial, firefighters from across the country testified that they had experienced similar equipment malfunctions, and Schlichter Bogard & Denton presented records obtained from the companies showing they had known for years of the product defects, yet failed to take any action to warn fire departments. The punitive damages were collected in full from Survivair and Bacou-Dalloz, and the purpose of these damages was to benefit firefighters across the country by punishing and deterring such conduct by the companies in the future.

Survivair Respirators, Inc. is now known as Sperian Respiratory Protection USA, LLC. The company changed its name shortly after the trial. For more details on the trial in Angela Martin v. Survivair Respirators Inc., click here.