Lawsuit filed against Motorola in deadly Southwest Inn fire

Former Houston City Attorney Benjamin L. Hall, III has announced that the families of five Houston firefighters have filed a federal lawsuit against Motorola that states, "incriminating evidence has surfaced showing that but for 18+ minutes of radio delays caused by malfunctioning and misprogrammed Motorola digital radios all of the firefighters would have survived the fire."

Houston Fire Department firefighters Anne Sullivan, Robert Garner, Matthew Renaud and Robert Bebee were killed in the May 31, 2013 Southwest Inn fire in southwest Houston. Firefighter Robert Yarbrough was injured in that fire.

The families of Sullivan, Garner, Renaud, Bebee and Yarbrough hired forensic pathologist Michael Baden, M.D. to review evidence in the case. Dr. Baden provided a scientific report that concludes Sullivan, Garner, Renaud and Bebee all died of suffocation after their 45-minute-rated air tanks were exhausted. 

In Dr. Baden's report, he shares the opinion that the firefighters could still have been successfully revived up to seven minutes after they lost breathable air. 

Another expert report by two independent radio experts concluded that Motorola’s digital radios were misprogrammed and malfunctioning on the day of the fire, which caused rescuers to be delayed from reaching the trapped firefighters by up to 18 minutes. One of the rescuers testified that had he had just three minutes of that delay, he would certainly have rescued two of the firefighters.

“This nightmare just keeps getting worse," said Nicole Garner, representing the estate of her brother Robert. "Losing Robert was devastating! Now to learn that he was alive and could have been saved but for faulty Motorola radios is unforgivable. Motorola made $144 million off of the City for the radios that killed my brother. Motorola must be held accountable for their neglect!” 

“This nightmare never ends,” said Sabina Bebee, mother of Robert Bebee. She explained that Robert was so proud that the City of Houston had purchased the Motorola radios as new additions to HFD equipment. 

“This is simply reckless conduct by Motorola!," said Mary Sullivan, mother of Anne Sullivan. "Our firefighters and first responders rely on these radios and they failed them.” 

“Motorola needs to take responsibility for the harm caused by their defective radios," said David Renaud, brother of Matthew Renaud. "We have lost too much because of this.”

All of the plaintiffs are represented by Hall.

“Finally, we have the truth," said Hall when asked about the case. "These heroes did not have to die.  We will ask a Houston jury to correct this wrong and punish Motorola which charged $144 million for a defective radio system only to have it fail so gloriously. They sold the City and our firefighters a bag of defective goods.”

The case is scheduled to go to trial later this year in Houston federal court.