Firefighter's family awarded $27M

Thursday, September 20, 2007

ST. LOUIS -- The family of a St. Louis firefighter who died battling a blaze in 2002 has been awarded $27 million in a suit against the maker of breathing equipment, and the jury on Wednesday was considering whether to award even more money.

Jurors returned a partial verdict Tuesday, awarding $12 million after deciding the company, California-based Survivair, was at fault in the death of Derek Martin. After further deliberations Wednesday, the jury awarded an additional $15 million after determining there were aggravating circumstances in the case, said attorney Jerry Schlichter.

At issue in the suit was whether a valve on Martin's air mask was faulty as his widow claimed, or if department procedures were at fault.

Martin and fellow firefighter Robert Morrison both died in the fire at a small commercial structure in May 2002. Both were 38.

"Wow," said fire chief Sherman George when informed of the verdict.

An earlier suit blamed Morrison's personal distress alarm, also made by Survivair, for failing to bring help when he became incapacitated. Martin died trying to save Morrison.

Before a jury decided the Morrison case, Survivair reached a sealed settlement with his widow, Laura Morrison.

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