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The family of a pastor from Louisiana who died from glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, is suing Motorola, AT&T and other telecommunications companies. The lawsuit, filed April 8, alleges the cancer was caused by exposure to cell phones’ radiation and that the telecommunications industry has engaged for decades in fraudulent practices to hide the health risks of cell phone radiation.
The lawsuit was brought by the widow and two sons of Frank Aaron Walker, a pastor, teacher and musician from Louisiana. Mr. Walker, who used cell phones for 25 years, was diagnosed with glioblastoma brain cancer in January 2019. Walker died Dec. 31, 2020, at the age of 49, after a two-year battle with this cancer.
The case “April Marie Walker, et al., v. Motorola Mobility, LLC, et al.” was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. The family is represented by Lundy, Lundy, Soileau & South, LLP, one of the leading personal injury law firms in the country, and by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., chairman and chief legal counsel for Children’s Health Defense (CHD).
The defendants in the case include Motorola Mobility, LLC; Motorola Solutions, Inc., Motorola, Inc.; AT&T Mobility LLC; ZTE Corp.; Cricket Communications LLC; HMD Global Oy; the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association; and the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA).
The lawsuit alleges that the telecom industry “downplayed, understated and/or did not state the health hazards and risks associated with cell phones.” It also accuses the defendants of fraud, unfair trade practices, design defects, inadequate warning and misrepresentation, among other state and federal causes of action.
CTIA played leading role in defrauding public
The plaintiffs claim that the wireless lobby associations, the CTIA and the Telecom Industry Association “have been at the forefront of the cell phone industry’s bad faith and deceptive public relations program to reassure the public of the absence of risk of harm from cell phone use.”
In 1993, when Wheeler worked for CTIA, he announced a $25 million research program to prove that cell phones are safe. The lawsuit alleges that in 1999, when the head of the research program disclosed that the studies showed evidence of health concerns, CTIA started a campaign to discredit the work of the man they chose to spearhead their research and they hid the results from the public.
Evidence shows science and scientists were suppressed
The lawsuit provides evidence of numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies that show cell phones can cause cancer, including U.S. government studies. The Plaintiffs allege that the telecom industry has misrepresented the scientific evidence, suppressed credible evidence and concerns and has conspired to conceal or alter results of studies.
The lawsuit claims that “researchers who discovered adverse effects associated with cell phone use, lost their funding, were fired, found their reputation damaged, and had their work denigrated.” The Complaint provides evidence of such industry actions stretching over decades.
For example, in 1994, Henry Lai, Ph.D., presented to the CTIA, Motorola and other telecommunication companies the findings of a series of experiments he conducted showing DNA damage from radiation similar to that emitted by cell phones.
The lawsuit claims instead of disclosing the findings to the public, the defendants conspired to “war game” Lai and his studies’ results, attempted to prevent their publication and hired a public relations firm to discredit the findings.
According to the lawsuit, the defendants then funded other researchers in an effort to disprove Lai’s findings. However, when the defendants’ own research confirmed Lai’s findings, the defendants refused to publish the research.
For example, when Jerry L. Phillips Ph.D., wanted to publish his study (which essentially replicated Lai’s studies and reached the same conclusions), Motorola, which funded the study, pressured him not to publish and threatened to withdraw funding. When Phillips “refused to allow Motorola to ‘spin’ his research, Motorola cut Phillips’ funding and threatened to discredit him in the scientific community.”
Patent applications show industry knew of potential harms
The lawsuit claims not only were the defendants aware of the mounting studies demonstrating adverse health effects caused by cell phones, they were also aware of solutions that could reduce the risk of harms.
To support their claims, the plaintiffs provided a list of patents for cell phone safety devices obtained by the defendants. Even though these patents could have reduced the risk of sickness and death, the Defendants didn’t incorporate these safety features into their cell phones.
While in public communications the defendants have asserted that there is no evidence of harm, and that the radiation emitted by cell phones is not biologically active and therefore cell phones are safe, the patent applications reveal evidence of the defendants’ knowledge of the potential harms.
One of the examples provided by the plaintiffs is a patent received by Nokia in 1998 for a shielding layer between the antenna and the user to reduce the irradiation of the cell phone user. The patent application reveals that Nokia was aware of potential harms of cell phones.
Nokia’s application states that the cell phone’s antenna is located a few centimeters from the brain, the hearing organs, and the organ of equilibrium and that “it has been suggested that modulated RF radiation induces changes in the electrical status … of nerve cells. A continuous localized exposure to radio frequency irradiation has been suggested to weaken myelin sheath of cells and to eventually lead to an impairment of hearing capability, vertigo, etc. 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 a development of malignant tumor, e.g., glioma …”
Not the first lawsuit alleging cell phones cause brain tumors
There are more than 70 cell phone brain tumor cases in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia (Civil Division). However, using numerous delaying tactics, the defendants in these cases — which include most cell phone manufacturers and service providers — were able to keep the cases in the courts for 20 years.
The first of these cases, known as the Murray case, was filed in 2001. In 2012, for the purpose of conducting an evidentiary hearing, 12 additional cases were consolidated with the Murray case (Murray et al. v. Motorola et al.; 2001 CA 008479 B).
This evidentiary hearing, also known as a “Daubert Hearing,” is scheduled for July 2021. The hearing will determine which of the plaintiffs’ experts qualify to testify in trial. The court will decide whether the experts’ opinions are sufficiently based on scientifically reliable evidence.
Until a decision is made in the evidentiary hearing for Murray et al, all the other cases are on hold.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Hunter W. Lundy, lead counsel in the Walker case, whose firm also represents some of the plaintiffs who are part of the Murray et al. litigation.
“The telecommunication industry has done all they could to prevent a 12- person jury from hearing the evidence on cell phone harms and how the industry manipulated the science to the detriment of consumers,” Lundy said, explaining why his firm decided to file a new case, this time in a federal court. Lundy hopes the Walker case will move forward separately from the Murray cases, as it was filed in a federal court and therefore is not bound by the Murray cases proceeding.
It is important to note that a series of court decisions held that section 704 of the 1996 Telecommunication Act preempts state tort laws allowing lawsuits for damages for personal injury from cell phones, cell towers and other personal devices. In Murray et al, the court held that only those who started to use cell phones prior to 1996 could bring personal injury lawsuits.
Defendants ask court to disallow expert’s testimony
The most recent development in the Murray cases took place in March when the plaintiffs filed a 176-page expert opinion by Dr. Christopher Portier, who was director of the National Center for Environment Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Prior to his appointment at the CDC, Portier was associate director of the National Institute for Health and Environmental Science and associate director of the National Toxicology Program (NTP).
Portier was also a member of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monograph Working Group that classified radio-frequency (RF) radiation, including from cell phones, as a 2B “possible carcinogen.” IARC is the World Health Organization’s agency responsible for the classification of carcinogens.
Portier’s report concluded: “In my opinion, RF exposure probably causes gliomas and neuromas and, given the human and experimental evidence, I assert that, to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, the probability that RF exposure causes gliomas and neuromas is high.”
As expected, the defense lawyers have asked the court not to allow Portier to be an expert witness in this case, claiming only evidence in existence in 2013 should be allowed.
Government-funded studies link cell phone radiation to cancer, DNA damage
The telecommunications industry and defendants in all the cases have good reasons to try and prevent Portier’s expert opinion and post-2013 evidence from being admitted in the Murray cases.
According to the Walker lawsuit, since IARC’s 2011 decision to classify RF radiation as a 2B possible carcinogen, more than 1,000 studies have been published showing extensive harms from this radiation, including studies that establish causal mechanisms of harm, DNA damage and carcinogenic effects.
Especially important to the brain tumor cases is the publication in 2018 and 2019 of the results of the U.S. government $30 Million NTP study which found “clear evidence” that cell phones cause cancer and DNA damage.
The NTP is the expert agency on toxic agents. The Walker lawsuit quotes Dr. Ron Melnick, who led the design of the NTP study, who stated that the NTP results “should put to rest the old argument that RF radiation cannot cause DNA damage.”
The results of these two large-scale studies are especially important because when IARC in 2011 classified cell phone radiation as a 2B possible carcinogen, the agency explained that while there is epidemiological evidence that cell phones increase cancer risk, especially of brain tumors, more animal studies were needed to determine if the agency should assign a higher classification.
The NTP study and the Ramazzini Institute study provide the missing link for a classification of a “human carcinogen” (Group 1) or at least a “potential carcinogen” (Group 2A) classification.
Indeed, a paper published by IARC in 2019 stated that as a result of “new bioassay and mechanistic evidence,” re-evaluation of the classification of RF emissions is warranted.
The revaluation was assigned as a “high priority” and IARC said the reevaluation should be completed no later than by 2024.
Favorable decision would protect children’s health
The court in the Murray cases will have to decide whether to allow Portier’s expert testimony and post-2013 evidence, including the NTP study. However, the new Walker case will be able to present this evidence which is already part of the lawsuit.
Commenting on the Walker lawsuit, Kennedy said:
“For decades, the telecommunication industry has been using legal blackmail, media control and its financial power to corrupt legislators, capture regulators and deceive the public regarding cell phones and wireless technology safety. Telecom has aggressively put dangerous and deadly cell phones in the hands of unsuspecting adults and innocent children.
“Their efforts have resulted in widespread sickness and death.”The courts are the final institution of our democracy free from the corrupt influence of the Telecom industry. We will prove evidence that will finally bring these outlaw companies to justice.”
The plaintiffs in the Walker case are asking for punitive damages, alleging the defendants acted with “oppression, fraud and malice.”
Children’s Health Defense in 2020 sued the FCC claiming that the health guidelines adopted by the FCC in 1996, which deny harms from cell phones and wireless technology. are obsolete and that the FCC decision not to review these guidelines is not evidence-based and is an abuse of discretion.
“We hope that following a favorable decision in both these cases, our government agencies will adopt biologically and scientifically based health guidelines and force the wireless industry to develop and promote safer technologies and finally better protect the health of our children,” Kennedy said.
If you developed a brain tumor and suspect that cell phone may have caused it, please contact the law firm of Lundy, Lundy, Soileau & South, LLP.