Appeals Court Affirms Mobile-Health Decision
RCR Wireless News
Journalist: Jeffrey Silva
October 23, 2003
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday unanimously affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of an $800 million brain-cancer suit against Motorola Inc. and others.
The decision puts in further jeopardy nine pending brain cancer suits against the mobile-phone industry in Baltimore federal court and likely will chill health litigation generally.
The three-judge panel in Richmond, Va., ruled U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake did not abuse her discretion in excluding expert testimony of Dr. Lennart Hardell, a Swedish epidemiologist and star witness for the plaintiff. The appeals court turned the case around in relatively quick fashion, having heard oral argument less than a month ago.
In 2000, Christopher Newman, a Baltimore neurologist, filed suit against Motorola Inc. and other telecom firms, claiming his brain cancer was caused by cell-phone use. Newman was represented by the law firm of high-powered trial lawyer and Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos.
Last fall, after extensive briefing and a five-day hearing on scientific evidence in which industry lawyers raised doubts about Hardell’s methodology and relevancy of his data, Blake ruled Hardell’s testimony did not meet the Supreme Court’s standard for acceptability and jury consideration. The case was dismissed shortly thereafter.
Blake is sitting on nine other brain cancer suits against the mobile-phone industry in Baltimore federal court, awaiting a ruling in a separate health-related appeal before the 4th Circuit that turns on jurisdiction.
In the latter case, also litigated by the Angelos law firm, Blake in March dismissed five class action suits brought against industry for failure to inform consumers about possible health risks from cell phones and not supplying them with headsets to reduce their exposure to phone radiation.
“Today’s decision reaffirms that the finding of the district court in Newman v. Motorola et al. that there is insufficient scientific evidence to support allegations that wireless phones cause brain cancer,” said the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association.
John Angelos, a lawyer for Newman, declined to comment on the 4th Circuit decision. “The opinion speaks for itself. We will need to speak to Dr. Newman concerning any future activity in this case,” said Angelos.
“The courts have spoken, and again the message is loud and clear: These claims of health risks from mobile phones have no basis in accepted science,” said Norm Sandler, director of global strategic issues for Motorola. “Anyone pursuing such claims at present or considering them in the future should take careful note.”