Cellphone Users Sue Apple and Samsung Over Radiation Exposure
by Alaina Lancaster, law.com, 11 September 2019
San Francisco’s Andrus Anderson represents a class action of phone owners who say they would not have purchased or paid top dollar for their cells if they had known about the risks of contact with radiofrequency radiation.
The complaint, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, claims that members of the class action would not have purchased their phones had they known their Apple and Samsung devices exposed them to radiofrequency radiation exceeding the regulatory limits.
Lawyers from Fegan Scott in Chicago and Shindler, Anderson, Goplerud & Weese in West Des Moines, Iowa, join Andrus in alleging that Apple and Samsung put their clients’ health at risk by designing products that emit heightened levels of RF radiation. Too much of the radiation, created by the transfer of energy waves, can increase cancer risks, cause cellular stress and jeopardize reproductive health, according to the complaint.
The Apple and Samsung products that the phone owners say they keep close to their body could exceed exposure limits in some instances by 500%, according to recent studies cited in the lawsuit.
In 1996, the Federal Communications Commission set the limit for RF radiation absorption to 1.6 watts per kilogram averaged over one gram of tissue. However, the complaint cites a test conducted by the Chicago Tribune and the RF Exposure Lab in San Marcos, California, which found exposure rates up to four times the legal guidelines in some phones. With the iPhone 7, the study found radiation exposure increased significantly the closer it was to a person, such as in their pocket or touching their skin, according to the complaint.
“We intend to show that Apple and Samsung were fully aware that they marketed their phones to be used in ways in which testing showed users would be exposed to dangerous levels of RF radiation—without warning consumers,” said Elizabeth Fegan of Fegan Scott in an email.
Some of these campaigns include Apple describing its phones as “the internet in your pocket,” or “your life in your pocket,” disregarding the increased RF radiation risks when the phones are carried in pockets or against skin, according to the complaint.
“Similarly, Samsung markets its smartphones to be used in a variety of contexts, including in bed and against the skin for sonograms,” the attorneys write. “Defendants cannot hide behind regulatory compliance on testing to protect its marketing and advertising which knowingly misrepresents the true risks of RF radiation exposure when smartphones are used while touching or in close proximity to the human body.”
When asked about the attorneys’ plans to demonstrate concrete harm from the alleged exposure, Fegan said that consumers would not have paid up to $1,000 dollars for Apple and Samsung phones had they known the risks. “These damages are recoverable as out-of-pocket losses and/or as the failure to receive the benefit of the bargain under consumer protection laws,” she said.
The plaintiffs attorneys filed a similar class action complaint in August in the San Jose division of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The district is no stranger to litigation over potential cellphones’ RF radiation emissions. The city of Berkeley and the telecommunications industry has been litigating the enforcement of an ordinance requiring mobile device retailers to warn consumers of potential RF radiation exposure since 2015. Most recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the Northern District of California’s denial of a preliminary injunction of the law brought by telecommunications industry group CTIA—The Wireless Association.
Neither Apple or Samsung responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
Alaina Lancaster, based in San Francisco, covers disruptive trends and technologies shaping the future of law. She authors the weekly legal futurist newsletter What's Next. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @a_lancaster3