Supreme Court Seeks US Views on Cell Phone Suit, as WHO Sees Possible Cancer Link

Posted May 31, 2011 1:58 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

The U.S. Supreme Court has asked the United States to weigh in on a pending cert petition in a lawsuit that contends cellphone companies misled consumers about radiation and possible health risks.

The name plaintiff in the would-be class action, Francis Farina, says the defendants should have included headsets with cellphones to reduce radiation dangers, Law360 reports. At issue in the Supreme Court case is whether the state law claims are pre-empted because they frustrate federal regulations, according to the cert petition (PDF posted by SCOTUSblog).

The Supreme Court acted on the same day that an international panel of World Health Organization experts found that cell phones may cause cancer, report the Washington Post and CNN. The panel called the phones “possibly carcinogenic,” a finding that differs from WHO’s earlier conclusion that there were no cancer risks. The rating is the third highest, falling below “carcinogenic” and “probably carcinogenic,” the Post says.

One panel member said consumers might want to switch to texting or using headsets. Overall, the panel stressed that more research is needed and the cancer link has not yet been proven.

Farina alleges breach of warranty and violation of state unfair and deceptive trade practices laws.

The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled Farina’s suit is impliedly pre-empted. The appeals court said the Federal Communications Commission was charged with regulating safe levels of radio frequency radiation, and Farina’s suit would allow a differing definition of radio frequency safety, according to Law360.

Hat tip to How Appealing and SCOTUSblog.

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