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Class-Action Lawsuits Against Mobile Phone Industry Reignited
Appeals Court Reinstates Suits Alleging Injury

An issue, with an apparently endless shelf life, concerning the health consequences of mobile phone usage has reawakened. A divided federal appeals court reinstated five lawsuits alleging that consumers have not been adequately shielded from unsafe levels of radiation. The suit, which plaintiffs have levied against the cell phone industry at large, is seeking monetary compensation claiming punitive damages.

The lawsuits were first filed in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia and Louisiana state courts. They were later consolidated and transferred to federal court in Baltimore and met with a dismissal by Judge Catherine Blake. Last March she ruled that federal standards regulating wireless phones pre-empt any state law claims. A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Blake's ruling in a 2-1 decision.

The plaintiffs want to force cell phone manufacturers to provide headsets to mitigate any brain damage that, according to them, mobile phone use poses, giving rise to tumors and related conditions. The plaintiffs claim industry-wide violation of consumer protection, product liability, implied warranty, negligence, fraud and civil conspiracy.

Judge Jackson L. Kiser, who dissented, said the claims require the courts to explore the adequacy of the FCC's radiation emission standards. "It is well-settled that a suit to invalidate a federal regulation arises under federal law," Kiser wrote. "... This thinly disguised attack on the validity of the FCC standards raises a substantial federal question."

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