Major Blow To Cell Phone Industry -
Federal Judge Lets Suit Stand
By Joe Grossman - UPI Science News


In a major blow to the cell phone industry, a federal judge in New Orleans has let stand a lawsuit that charges manufacturers are making and selling cell phones with the knowledge that they are dangerous.
U.S. District Court Judge Ivan L. R. Lemelle ruled that since the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not issued standards regulating cell phones, the states are not pre-empted from regulating the devices and state courts are not barred from hearing lawsuits about the potential dangers of cell phones.
New Orleans attorney Michael Allweiss filed suit on behalf of a Louisiana resident. He is seeking to make the suit a class action, which could potentially include 110 million U.S. cell phone users.
Allweiss' suit does not claim his client suffered specific health problems but argues that cell phone manufacturers have for quite some time been aware that cell phones emit radiation into users' brains and have done nothing to protect their customers. The suit argues that cell phones should have been sold with headsets as standard equipment, thus reducing users' exposure to potentially harmful radiation.
Among other remedies, the suit asks that cell phone manufacturers supply headsets to past and future customers and reimburse those who purchased headsets on their own.
Lawyers for the cell phone industry argued that Congress had given the FDA the sole authority to oversee cell phone safety and that courts and state legislatures had thus been pre-empted. But Allweiss argued -- and the judge agreed -- that since the FDA has not issued standards, the courts and other jurisdictions are free to act.
The ruling damaged a major pillar in the industry's defense strategy and Allweiss says he is eager to get cell phone executives on the stand so he can grill them about what they knew and when they knew it.
A major critic of the cell phone industry, Dr. George Carlo, was quoted by The Standard as saying the Louisiana ruling shows "there is nothing of substance to protect consumers."
"Federal agencies are not doing what they should be doing. It's going to backfire on the inidustry because it's going to be clear that the FDA is not doing its job," he said. Carlo is the author of a new expose, Cell Phones: Invisible Hazards in the Wireless Age.
Cell Phone Brain Tumor Lawsuit Lands Heavy Hitter Attorney 1-22-01
BALTIMORE - The majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles has jumped into the legal fight over whether cellular telephones cause cancer. Peter G. Angelos filed as co-counsel in an $800 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court charging that a neurologist's brain tumor resulted from his regular use of cell phones.
Angelos brings something to the struggle that has so far been lacking -- deep pockets. He played a major role and earned millions of dollars in successful class action lawsuits against asbestos and tobacco companies.
Angelos recently represented the state of Maryland in a successful suit against cigarette manufacturers, resulting in a $4 billion settlement. His entry into Dr. Christopher Newman's case sends a signal that he sees similar potential in cell phone litigation.
Newman's suit argues that the cellular telephone industry knew of the health hazards posed by radiation emitted from cell phone antennas but failed to protect its consumers. The suit also names two industry associations and accuses them of falsely protraying cell phones as safe.
Angelos' entry follows a setback last month when a judge transferred Newsman's case from Baltimore Circuit Court to federal court. There, a judge dismissed most of the allegations and excused two wireless companies and gave Newman until yesterday to amend his lawsuit by providing more specific allegations.
As the deadline neared, Angelos' firm responded with an 86-page lawsuit detailing Newman's claims and making new allegations of "conspiratorial conduct." The suit charges that researchers first documented health effects from radio-frequency radiation in the 1920s.
Angelos' deep pockets are as important as his expertise, observers said. Successfully litigating a major class-action case can cost many millions of dollars and it can be many years before attorneys recover a penny of their expenses.
"They have the resources to see this through, find the experts and stay in there for the long term," Louis Slesin, editor of Microwave News, told the Baltimore Sun.

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