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Appeals Court Urged To Overturn RF Headset Cases
RCR Wireless News
Journalist: Jeffrey Silva
November 14, 2003

Plaintiffs’ lawyers again urged a federal appeals court to overturn a lower court ruling dismissing five class-action suits that sought to force mobile-phone carriers to supply consumers with headsets to reduce the chance of injury from radiation emitted by handsets.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake of Baltimore last year denied a motion to remand four of the cases to state court and the fifth to a federal court in Louisiana.

In March, Blake threw out all five suits.

“The telecommunications carriers and manufacturers … represent that their commercial activities are inherently federal and wholly beyond scrutiny of the state courts. In deregulating that industry, however, Congress never intended to immunize such activities from the operation of state tort and consumer protection laws,” plaintiffs told the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., on Nov 5. The date for oral argument has not been set.

The 4th Circuit last month affirmed Blake’s dismissal of an $800 million cancer suit against Motorola Inc. and others. Lawyers for Christopher Newman, the Maryland neurologist who filed the suit in 2000, have not said whether they plan further legal action. The outcome of the headset appeal could determine whether Blake agrees to remand to state court nine brain cancer cases that turn on jurisdiction.

On a related front, Chicago parents have filed a class action suit against local education officials for installing wireless local area networks in schools. The suit, filed in Cook County circuit court said the school district ignored potential health risks posed by radio-frequency radiation and “breached their duties of care to the children of District 27.”

U.S. health agencies say research indicates low-level radiation does not pose a heath risk, but caution they cannot guarantee that human exposure to such transmissions are safe. Some studies have found genetic damage from low-level RF emissions. The government said it supports more research.