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3rd Circuit Tosses Cell|Phone Radiation Lawsuit

(CN) - The cell phone industry scored a victory after the 3rd Circuit tossed a class action over alleged radiation from cell phones, saying it was up to the Federal Communications Commission to decide if cell phones are safe.

Upholding dismissal of the class action, the federal appeals court in Philadelphia said juries in cell phone liability cases should not be allowed to "second guess" the FCC.

"Regulatory assessments and rulemaking call upon a myriad of empirical and scientific data and medical and scientific opinion, especially in a case, such as radio frequency radiation, where the science remains inconclusive," Judge Anthony Scirica wrote for the three-judge panel.

The judge added that the FCC was committed to addressing safety concerns associated with wireless devices, including the possibility that they cause brain cancer.

Lead plaintiff Francis Farina tried to convince the court that radiation levels from cell phones harm consumers, even if the phones comply with FCC standards.

Farina wanted a court order forcing cell phone manufacturers like Nokia, Motorola, Sprint and Samsung to package their products with headsets to reduce the risks of illness or injury.

But the 3rd Circuit ruled that allowing states to monitor the cell phone industry would "impair the efficiency of the wireless market."

"As an agency engaged in rulemaking, the FCC is well positioned to solicit expert opinions and marshal the scientific data to ensure its standards both protect the public and provide for an efficient wireless network," Scirica wrote.

"Subjecting the wireless network to a patchwork of state standards would disrupt that uniformity and place additional burdens on industry and the network itself," he said, adding that lawmakers gave the FCC an exclusive mandate to regulate the industry to avoid that very issue.

The circuit court said Farina's focus on headsets was "misplaced" and would likely "conflict with federal law."

"The nature of jury decisions is not to prescribe a specific prospective remedy," Scirica wrote. "It is merely to say that defendants' conduct does not abide by the operative legal standard -- in this case, that defendants' cell phones are unsafe -- and to provide relief for the specific case or cases before the court."

Nokia, Ericsson Wireless Communications, Motorola, Sprint PSC and AT&T Wireless Services were all named as defendants, in addition to other cell phone makers and wireless providers.

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