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Appeals Court Rejects
Motion To Rehear Wireless Health Arguments
The full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the mobile-phone industry's motion to rehear arguments in five class-action headset lawsuits, which a divided three-judge panel remanded to state courts last month, setting the stage for a possible battle in the nation's high court.
Despite the latest 4th Circuit ruling, industry lawyers still may be able to keep-at least temporarily-the headset suits from returning to state courts in Maryland, New York, Georgia and Pennsylvania for further litigation.
On April 15, attorneys for wireless carriers and manufacturers asked the 4th Circuit to stay the March 16 headset ruling pending a petition to have the U.S. Supreme Court review the case. According to one industry lawyer, federal appeals courts generally grant such requests. Former independent counsel Kenneth Starr is heading industry's defense efforts in the headset litigation.
"Obviously, we're disappointed and are exploring our options," said Joe Farren, a spokesman for CTIA, the national mobile-phone trade association.
Plaintiffs argue wireless firms have long known about health uncertainties associated with cell-phone use and therefore should have supplied consumers from the start with headsets to reduce their exposure to handset radiation.
The cellular industry replies scientists largely have failed to find an association between cell phones and cancer or other diseases. The federal radiation-exposure standard has been upheld by the courts.
Meantime, the cellular industry is awaiting a decision by the Superior Court for the District of Columbia on its motion to throw out six brain-cancer suits on federal pre-emption grounds.