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Cell Phone Industry Faces Fresh Suit Over Phone Fears
Financial Times
By: Gautam Malkani
06/12/01

The mobile phone industry is facing a sixth class-action lawsuit in the US over health concerns following the filing of a suit on behalf of the people of Georgia.

The action, filed by Weinstock & Scavo on Friday, is the latest in recent months to attack the industry for failing to provide free headsets to reduce exposure to radiation from cell phones.

Scientists are deeply divided over whether mobile phones pose health risks, but fears that they might have prompted lawyers to file or move to file a series of similar class actions, including cases in Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Louisiana.

All six actions are being brought by or in partnership with Peter Angelos, the trial lawyer emboldened by success against the tobacco and asbestos industries.

Richard Capriola, a partner at the Atlanta law firm that filed the latest action, said the suit sought punitive damages, reimbursement for those who have bought separate headsets and the introduction of free headsets with phones. It was filed against 36 mobile phone companies, including manufacturers and service providers.

Mr Capriola and Mr Angelos are also separately bringing two of a handful of lawsuits on behalf of individual clients claiming mobile companies are responsible for brain tumours. It emerged yesterday that some suits are to cite the revelation that manufacturers Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia have been patenting shields and other devices to reduce radiation exposure for nearly a decade. The patents were reported by RCR Wireless News in Denver and The Times in London.

One patent, filed by Nokia with the US Patent & Trademark Office in Washington in 1998, says: "It has been suggested that radio frequency irradiation may stimulate extra growth among supportive cells in the nerve system, which in the worst case it has been suggested could lead to the development of malignant tumour scientifically verified."

However, Nokia said these patents referred only to suggestions of health risks. "Of course we are working on patents on antennas because we are trying to improve our products," said Peter Harrison of Nokia. "But you have to give some background as to why you are making the application."

Ericsson said its patents were for devices to control the output of power and noted that none had actually been used. Motorola added: "The innovations in the patents referred to in recent media reports address the design, performance and efficiency of our products and were not motivated by concerns about potential health issues. Any claim to the contrary is a misinterpretation of the facts."