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A judge this month is hearing evidence in a lawsuit filed in 2011 by a group of individuals who developed cancer, allegedly as a result of radiation from their cellphones. Depending on how the judge rules, the lawsuit could finally head to a jury trial.

Evidentiary hearings in Murray v. Motorola began Sept. 12 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and will continue until Sept. 30. Expert testimony will be presented during the hearings before the case goes before a jury.

In a parallel case that may have repercussions for the D.C. case, a similar lawsuit before a federal court in Louisiana — filed by the widow of a man who died of an aggressive form of brain cancer allegedly caused by cellphone radiation — also is headed to trial.

The D.C. case is proceeding without the plaintiffs being able to present a significant category of evidence pertaining to the defendants’ liability. However, that evidence will be heard in the Louisiana case.

In an exclusive interview with The Defender, Hunter Lundy, a lawyer representing plaintiffs in both cases, discussed the evidence and expert testimony and the potential significance rulings in this case could have.

D.C. case: lawsuit filed in 2001 finally headed to a jury

In 2001 and 2002, six individuals, including Michael Patrick Murray, sued the telecommunications industry.

The six plaintiffs had developed brain tumors beneath where they held their cellphones. Additional plaintiffs joined the case in 2010, 2011 and thereafter — with the number of plaintiffs now exceeding 80, according to Lundy.

The defendants are a who’s who of major telecommunications companies, including AT&T, Bell Atlantic, Bell South, Motorola, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sanyo, Sony, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and many other companies.

The lawsuit also names the Federal Communications Commission and the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CITA), an industry lobbying group.

After 21 years and multiple delays, many of the plaintiffs have since died.

Despite efforts on the part of the defendants to get the lawsuit dismissed or relocated to federal court in Maryland, the case was initially remanded from the D.C. District Court to the D.C. Superior Court — where the complaints were dismissed in 2007, before being partially reinstated in 2009, by the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case continued to wind through the courts, with evidentiary hearings finally beginning this year.

Lundy discussed key details about the lawsuit, stating that the plaintiffs alleged: “the radiation frequency … the microwave radiation coming out of cellphones increased the risk of individuals getting brain tumors.”

The plaintiffs further alleged that “the cell phone industry, the manufacturers and the carriers knew when these [cellphones] were put out on the market that they had dangers that they didn’t warn people about,” said Lundy.

However, Lundy said that the main thrust of the case concerns gliomas — tumors that impact the brain.

According to Lundy, “There are several kinds of gliomas … the most prevalent one is the glioblastoma,” a type of malignant glioma.

Other tumors, such as acoustic neuroma, are benign, Lundy told The Defender, but form on the cerebral nerve inside the brain, growing without their victims being aware of them. Eventually, their growth leads to hearing loss and their removal results in residual brain damage.

Ultimately, most such cases result in death, said Lundy. With glioblastoma, for instance, diagnoses range from having three to four months — to five years at most — to live.

Referring to the plaintiffs in the D.C. case, Lundy said, “Many of them have died, and many of the cases are just death cases right up front, or the widows or family members brought the suits.”

“This is what the battle is [about] … that’s our case in a nutshell,” explained Lundy.

Although the plaintiffs were from different parts of the U.S., the initial lawsuits — later combined into the current case — were filed in the District of Columbia “because [of] the idea that the lobbying institutions of the wireless industry [are] located in D.C.,” said Lundy.

In 2013, a Frye hearing was held, during which, according to Lundy, the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses “had to pass a standard before they could testify in front of a jury.”

“The Frye standard had to be met where you proved that the methodology used by the expert … was generally accepted in the scientific community,” Lundy said.

In the period between 2013 and 2015, the five experts put forth by the plaintiffs were approved according to the Frye standard and a trial was held, Lundy said. However, the defendants, on appeal, were able to get the case reversed and to get the standard by which the plaintiffs’ experts were evaluated changed, to the Daubert standard.

Louisiana case an opportunity for more expert testimony to be presented

The related case, Walker v. Motorola et al., filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, may present an opportunity for plaintiffs to present expert testimony that was shut out of the D.C. case.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., chairman of Children’s Health Defense, is co-counsel in this case.

According to Lundy, this lawsuit has the potential to quickly go to trial.

“Ahead of what’s going on in D.C., we just want a case to go to trial somewhere … we need a ruling before people go forward,” Lundy told The Defender.

Referring to the D.C. case, Lundy said:

“We haven’t been able to get … liability document production, discussing the development of the products, the interaction between risk management and others.

“So I think in Louisiana, if we prevail, we will get the discovery [of such evidence]. It’s a different ballgame.”

In the Louisiana case, the family of Frank Aaron Walker sued the telecommunications industry, alleging the pastor’s death from an aggressive brain cancer was brought on by cellphone radiation, the health risks of which the industry has known for decades.

According to the suit, the telecommunications industry “suppressed credible cell phone safety concerns and has conspired to conceal or alter results of safety studies to make them more ‘market-friendly.’”

Walker was “a 25-year user of cell phone products,” the suit claims, before dying on Dec. 31, 2020, age 49, following “a two-year battle with glioblastoma that included extensive radiation, chemotherapy and surgery.”

During this two-year period, Walker experienced severe symptoms including “seizures, visual auras, excessive fatigue, migraines, light sensitivity, memory problems, psychological and emotional stress, anxiety, and depression,” the lawsuit alleges.

Similar to the D.C. case, the defendants in the Louisiana lawsuit include several major telecommunications industry players, such as AT&T, Cricket Communications, CITA, Motorola, the Telecommunications Industry Association and ZTE.

In a 2021 press release issued after the lawsuit was filed, Lundy stated:

“For generations, the telecom industry has fought the release of scientific studies and information regarding ties between mobile phone use and brain tumors. The industry manipulated the science to the detriment of consumers.

“With this lawsuit, Mr. Walker’s family hopes to help reveal the telecom industry’s secrets and hold them accountable for harm done to consumers.”

In the same release, Lundy alleged the telecommunications industry “downplayed, understated, and/or did not state the health hazards and risks associated with cell phones.”

The press release also quoted Walker’s widow, April Marie Walker:

“Throughout his battle with cancer, Frank never lost his faith or his sense of humor, but he suffered terribly.

“Our family’s hope now is that we can force the telecom industry to let consumers make informed choices about the products we buy.

“If the telecom industry knew holding a cell phone next to one’s head is dangerous, then the public should have known this information.”

In remarking on the broader significance of this case, Lundy said:

“There needs to be an exposure of truth. I just believe everybody should be accountable.

“We have not been allowed to do liability discovery. We have done scientific discovery and evidence about science. But we do not yet have the industry’s documents.

“I think we’ll be able … to do liability discovery here in federal court in Louisiana when we go forward.”

Industry concealed studies linking cellphone use to brain and DNA damage, plaintiffs allege

The Louisiana lawsuit also cites a significant number of scientific studies and industry actions taken since the 1980s, “including the firing, defunding or denigration of researchers who discovered adverse effects associated with cell phone use.”

According to the lawsuit:

“At all times herein mentioned, Defendants were aware of numerous studies and experiments that demonstrated the health hazards of RF radiation dating back to the late 1940s and continuing to this day, yet Defendants have consistently maintained to the public at large that cell phones are absolutely safe.”

The lawsuit alleges “scientific and medical research, published in peer-reviewed literature, has demonstrated a correlation between biological effects and the exposure to RF radiation within the radio frequency band of 300 megahertz to 2.4 gigahertz,” noting, however, that such peer-reviewed journals are not typically read by the general public.

Radiation exposure standards adopted by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), initially in the 1960s, and subsequently modified in the 1980s and 1990s, “excluded cell phones,” states the lawsuit, as “the cell phone industry manipulated the research and pressured members of the ANSI Safety Committee to exempt cell phones from regulation and compliance.”

However, as scientific and public concern over radiation produced by cellular phones increased in the 1990s, “defendants, individually and through their trade associations … undertook with public fanfare to fund scientific studies to prove the safety of cell phones,” resulting in the formation of the Scientific Advisory Group in 1993.

Subsequently, industry associations CTIA and Telecommunications Industry Association hired an expert, Dr. George Carlo, to direct the Scientific Advisory Group and conduct research into cellular phone radiation. However, as the lawsuit states:

“When this industry-funded research failed to corroborate the industry’s claims of safety and, in fact, presented new evidence supporting health concerns, the industry responded by terminating the research funding and publicly disparaging Dr. Carlo as well as suppressing and minimizing the results of his studies.”

Nevertheless, numerous other scientific studies followed, calling into question the industry’s claims regarding the safety of their mobile devices. These studies are cited in the lawsuit and include:

  • A 1995 University of Washington study conducted on rats exposed to “radiation similar to the type of radiation emitted from the antenna of a cell phone,” found the radiation caused damage to DNA. The industry-funded research that aimed to disprove these fundings, but which ultimately confirmed them, leading the industry to refuse to publish the results.
  • Another scientist who subsequently replicated the DNA damage found by the University of Washington research had his findings “suppressed” by the industry, pressuring him and threatening to withdraw funding.
  • A 1996 study of Air Force personnel found those exposed to RF radiation had a “risk of brain tumors 1.39 times higher … versus those not exposed.”
  • A 2000 study by Sweden’s Orebro Medical Center “found the risk of tumors developing on the same side of the head cell phone users hold their cell phones is significantly higher than it is for the other side.”
  • In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a decade-long multinational research study, the “Interphone Study,” ultimately finding that “the use of cell phones for a period of 10 years or more can increase the risk of glioblastomas by 40% in adults” and that “tumors are most likely to occur on the side of the head most used for calling.”
  • A 2002 Swedish study found “the risk of developing brain tumors from first-generation cell phones … was as much as 80% greater than those who did not use cell phones.”
  • Another Swedish study, in 2003, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which in turn operates under the aegis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “found electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emitted by certain cell phones damaged neurons in the brains of rats.”
  • A four-year study performed by Reflex, with funding from the European Union, in 2004 found that “radio waves from cell phones damage DNA and other cells in the body and that the damage extended to the next generation of cells.”

The lawsuit adds, “mutated cells are considered a possible cause of cancer,” and that the radiation levels tested in the study were within the range used by most cellphones at that time. The study ultimately “advised people to use landlines, rather than cell phones, whenever possible.”

  • A 2005 study “reported using a cell phone in rural areas might lead to the development of brain tumors.” As cellphone towers are more sparsely placed in rural locations, cellular devices tend to use higher wattage in order to achieve reception of a mobile signal.
  • A 2009 meta-analysis of 465 scholarly studies involving the relationship between cellphone radiation and cancer, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, “demonstrated a significant positive association between cell phone use and cancer” and “established the association increased with long-term cell phone use.”
  • A hearing held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations and the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies in 2009 featured testimony from an investigator involved in the Interphone Study that was also published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

According to the expert, there was “an elevated risk of salivary gland tumors was seen among people who used cell phones for more than 10 years, especially when the phone was usually held on the same side of the head where the tumor was found, and when use was relatively heavy.”

  • In 2011, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) “declared the RF radiation emitted from cell phones to be ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans.’”

Also according to the lawsuit, in the period since the IARC’s 2011 declaration, “more than 1,000 additional scientific studies have been published in peer-reviewed literature further supporting the causal link between cell phone radiation, brain tumors and health effects.”

The lawsuit states that “several experts have analyzed this new information and concluded cell phone radiation should be classified as a ‘probable human carcinogen.’”

Some of these subsequent studies include:

  • A 2015 study out of Jacobs University in Germany, finding (and replicating the results of a 2010 German study) that “weak cell phone signals can promote the growth of tumors in mice,” at “radiation levels that do not cause heating and are well below current safety standards.”
  • A 2016 study by the U.S. National Toxicology Program, finding that “male rats exposed to cell phone radiation developed higher rates of cancer” and also “caused DNA breaks in the male rats’ brains.”

The Louisiana lawsuit cites 13 examples of the telecommunication industry’s moves to quietly reduce RF exposure from mobile devices, dating back as early as 1991.

Lundy noted that, in the D.C. case, expert witnesses from Europe, including epidemiologists and cell biologists from countries such as Austria, Greece and Slovakia, were initially the most willing to come forward with testimony, adding, however, that “American scientists are now on board.”

Lundy: ‘The truth is going to come out’

Lundy said he’s frustrated with the legal proceedings’ slow pace:

“It’s just disappointing that the scales of justice turn so slowly. And you know, sometimes that’s the case. There’s no justice.

“But the truth is going to come out. It’s coming out now. I mean, sometimes [it] doesn’t always come out in the timing that we want it to come out, but it will come out.”

Lundy cited the long history of lawsuits involving the tobacco industry as an example of this, saying:

“The cigarette industry never lost a case for 30 or so years. But when [tobacco industry whistleblower] Dr. Jeffrey Wigand disclosed the fact that they were manipulating nicotine to addict 13-year-olds, I mean, the whole climate shifted.”

According to Lundy, truthful information regarding children’s health, in relation to the use of cellular phones, is of particular importance:

Overall, for Lundy, the broader significance of the D.C. and Louisiana cases and their outcome concerns “educating people.”