- The Washington Times - Monday, October 31, 2005


The Supreme Court refused yesterday to consider throwing out class-action lawsuits that accuse cell phone makers of failing to protect users from unsafe levels of radiation.

The cell industry argued that because the phones comply with federal rules, the lawsuits should be dismissed. Justices declined without comment to consider the appeal.

Lawsuits were filed in state courts in Maryland, Georgia, Louisiana, New York and Pennsylvania seeking to force manufacturers to make phones safer. The lawsuits call for headsets, on grounds that they could reduce risks of brain tumors, and instructions for users.

The consumers who filed the lawsuits say the industry violated various state laws on consumer protection, product liability, negligence and fraud.

A divided panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond said the lawsuits could proceed, and Nokia Inc., and other companies appealed to the Supreme Court.

At issue for the court is whether federal standards regulating wireless phones — including uniform national limits on radiation emissions — pre-empt the state law claims.

Andrew McBride, Nokia’s attorney, said federal rules must be protected because “a reliable and seamless interstate wireless network is a national resource — essential to homeland security, public safety and the economic health of this country.”

Harley Thomas Howell, the lawyer for those who filed the lawsuits, said: “The fact that a portable wireless telephone is a regulated product does not affect its status as a consumer product.”

Many groups had urged the Supreme Court to hear the case, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That group said companies that follow federal regulations in design, manufacture, marketing, labeling and testing of products should not face damages “under a patchwork of state tort laws.”

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