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Judge: Cancer Victim Can't Sue
Wired News
Journalist: Elisa Batista
September 30, 2002

In a victory for the wireless phone industry, a federal judge ruled Monday that a Maryland doctor does not have enough evidence to sue Motorola and others for his brain cancer, which he claims was caused by cell-phone radiation. Aegis Note: Click here for Judge Blake's ruling.Adobe pdf file

Observers and industry insiders have closely monitored Dr. Christopher Newman's case, filed two years ago. Had it gone to trial, it could have set a precedent for brain-cancer victims to sue cell-phone makers much the same way smokers who developed lung cancer have successfully sued tobacco companies.

In her decision, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake ruled that Newman's attorneys, including members of a prominent Baltimore law firm that has successfully sued asbestos companies, did not have enough evidence to indict the cell-phone industry.

"Because of the national and international scientific interest in radio frequency radiation, there is a substantial body of literature to consult in order to determine whether the plaintiff's theory and technique of demonstrating cancer causation has attained general acceptance in the scientific community," Blake wrote in the decision. "The short answer is that no such general acceptance has been shown."

No one agreed with Blake more wholeheartedly than the cell-phone industry.

"Today's decision is consistent with the overall judgment of the international scientific community that the use of mobile phones does not play any role in brain cancer or any other known health disease," the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, one of the defendants named in Newman's lawsuit, said in a statement.

In his $800 million lawsuit against the industry, Newman, who had developed a malignant tumor behind his right ear, blamed the cancer on frequent use of his Motorola cell phone. He sued several industry associations, Motorola, Verizon Communications, Bell Atlantic, Bell Atlantic Mobile and SBC Communications.

One of Newman's attorneys, John C. P. Angelos, said he and his client were disappointed with Blake's decision. They are currently reviewing the judge's ruling and their legal options, Angelos said.

Regardless of the court's decision, there are still plenty of people, including scientists, who say the ruling does not absolve the cell-phone industry.

Louis Slesin, editor of Microwave News, a newsletter on radiation effects, said the scientific community agrees that using a cell phone infrequently for a short amount of time is not harmful. But no one knows the long-term effects of frequent use.

"You need long-term use and long-term studies to answer that question," Slesin said. "We are not there yet."

Both the Food and Drug Administration and World Health Organization have said there is no evidence that cell-phone use is harmful. But neither is willing to say that they're harmless, either.

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