October 04, 2011

Wireless Phone Illness Suit Rejected by SCOTUS


A group of Pennsylvania residents hoping to sue mobile phone manufacturers and retailers over illness or risk of illness from the phones has been disappointed – again – this time by the U.S. Supreme Court, which has refused to revive their lawsuit.

The Supreme Court has upheld a federal appeals court decision that said that FCC (News - Alert) regulations preclude lawsuits under state laws by mobile phone consumers. It's not a new ruling: most other courts tasked with similar lawsuits have reached similar conclusions, according to Bloomberg (News - Alert). Behind the ruling are 1996 FCC standards covering radio frequency emissions that basically preempt lawsuits.

The original lawsuit, Farina v. Nokia (News - Alert), had named more than a dozen companies and wireless industry trade associations as defendants, the pool of which included Nokia. AT&T's wireless division and Motorola (News - Alert) Mobility Holdings Inc. (now owned by Google) and Verizon Wireless (which is jointly owned by Verizon Wireless and Britain's Vodafone).

Two SCOTUS justices – Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Stephen Breyer – recused themselves from the case as both disclosed they own shares of Nokia.

The appeal centered on the legal impact of the FCC standards that govern radio frequency emissions and require pre- authorization of phones sold or leased in the country. The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said those rules, first adopted in 1996, preempt any additional requirements under state law, including those imposed through lawsuits.

The Obama administration went on record urging the Supreme Court to reject the appeal.



Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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