Health Lawsuits Move To Baltimore Judge
RCR Wireless News
Journalist: Jeffrey Silva
November 12, 2001
The wireless industry as early as this week is expected to get hit with the
first wave of lawsuits claiming mobile phones caused the brain cancer of a
former Motorola Inc. technician and other heavy cell-phone users.
The litigation likely will be followed by a public-interest lawsuit that
alleges federal regulatory agencies have failed to protect the nation's 123
million wireless subscribers from radiation health risks. Those agencies
include the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency
and Federal Communications Commission.
The lawsuits will be filed by a team that includes Baltimore lawyer Joanne
Suder and two high-profile Michigan-based trial lawyers, Mike Morganroth and
Sheldon Miller. The next cancer lawsuit is expected be filed later this week
in the District of Columbia by Michael Murray, a worker who tested mobile
phones for Motorola during the 1990s.
Murray has a workers' compensation claim pending in the Illinois Industrial
Commission. A lawyer representing Murray in that proceeding would not
confirm whether a lawsuit will be filed this week.
Similar workers' compensation claims have been filed in California by Mark
Hart, a former global marketing director for Neopoint Inc.,
and by Sharesa Price, a former cell-phone programmer for Advanced
Communications Systems, a U.S. Cellular Corp. agent.
At least four additional phone-cancer lawsuits also could be filed in D.C.
Superior court by the end of this week or next week, according to a source
close to the litigation. The source said more phone-cancer lawsuits would be
filed in groups of five during the next six months.
All the lawsuits, which will name as defendants various carriers and
manufacturers as well as the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet
Association and the American National Standards Institute, are expected to
be filed in D.C. Superior Court. There is no cap on damages in the District
Last year, Suder filed an $800 million lawsuit on behalf of Christopher
Newman, a neurologist and a heavy cell-phone user who was diagnosed with
brain cancer. The case, set for a key hearing in February that will focus on
the use of scientific experts, was transferred to fellow Baltimore trial
lawyer Peter Angelos.
Angelos, who has won hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits against
tobacco companies and asbestos manufacturers, is suing makers of audiotape
erasing machines, lead paint companies and other firms. In addition, Angelos
and other attorneys around the country are involved in five lawsuits aimed
at forcing the wireless industry to provide hands-free headsets with mobile
phones and to compensate subscribers who already purchased such devices.
Class-action headset lawsuits initially were filed in five state courts
before industry got the cases moved to federal courts. Last month, a federal
judicial panel transferred all the headset cases to a Maryland federal
court. The cases are now in the hands of Judge Catherine C. Blake, the same
Baltimore judge who is handling the Newman phone-cancer case.
Other phone-cancer cases are pending in Georgia, Nevada and California.
Industry's victory in an unsuccessful cancer lawsuit brought by former
Motorola engineer Robert Kane is being challenged in an Illinois appeals
court. A final hearing on partial settlement in a privacy-phone health case
is scheduled for Nov. 20 in an Illinois state court in Chicago. The
settlement would fund the creation of a registry of wireless subscribers who
believe they have been injured by cell-phone radiation.
Plaintiffs lawyers may have suffered a setback of sorts as a result of a
recent editorial by five scientists in a leading Swedish newspaper that was
highly critical of a study conducted by scientist Lennart Hardell. Hardell,
who received a lot of media attention after publicizing an epidemiology
study that found cell-phone users tended to get tumors on the side of the
head where phones are used, is an expert in the Newman case and likely will
serve in the same capacity in upcoming phone-cancer lawsuits. "This kind of
interpretation seems bizarre in biological terms and is probably based on
chance findings. ... We think it is generally wrong to discuss pilot studies
in the media, as the main study will, by definition, not have been
concluded," stated the scientists in Svenska Dagbladet/Brannpunkt.