Cell Phone Safety Lawsuits Revived
Internet News, March 18, 2005
by Roy Mark
A federal appeals court ruled Thursday cell phone makers could be sued in state court over claims that wireless equipment emits unsafe levels of radio frequency radiation.
The decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court reverses a previous decision that the issue belongs in federal court and pre-empts state law.
A spat of lawsuits over the last few years have been filed in state courts from Maryland to Louisiana contending that wireless equipment makers are liable under state laws for the possible health effects of mobile phone use. Although there have been no conclusive studies, some health advocates maintain mobile phone use can lead to brain tumors.
The equipment makers contend the matter belongs in federal court in order to avoid dealing with lawsuits in 50 different state courts. Last March, a Baltimore judge ruled that federal standards on radiation emissions established by the Federal Communications Commission pre-empts state law claims.
Thursday's decision reverses that ruling. "Although this certainly does not mean that plaintiffs alleging health and safety harms will necessarily win at the end of the day, it does mean that carriers and equipment manufacturers will be involved in more litigation and the outcome of that litigation will be more uncertain," a Legg Mason research note issued Thursday states.
In January, Britain's National Radiological Protection Board issued a report saying mobile phone users should take care to use a headset with cell phones. The independent advisory group is concerned that cell phones placed directly against head puts the brain too close to possible harmful radiation levels.
A contrary report was issued the next month by Finland's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority contending that radiation emitted by cell phone cells is well within safety levels.