Handful of law firms continue to press brain-cancer lawsuits

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WASHINGTON--Plaintiffs' lawyers are leaning toward an appeal of U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake's dismissal of five class-action lawsuits on headset health protection and say they have no plans to drop a slew of brain-cancer lawsuits pending before a Baltimore judge who has been hostile to wireless health litigation and highly supportive of industry's federal pre-emption arguments.

The legal developments come as two newly published studies by Swedish scientists, including one whose testimony was debunked in the $800 million cancer suit thrown out by Blake last year, link cell-phone use to brain tumors.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported data from a conference in Italy pointing to a 40-percent increase in brain tumors in the United States and Europe in the past 20 years.

Still, the decision to continue pressing health litigation, despite Blake's dismissal of Christopher Newman's brain-cancer lawsuit and her recent headset ruling, remains a high-risk proposition for plaintiffs' lawyers. The costs can be huge, both in terms of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses and judicial precedent. But those costs pale in comparison to the risk to industry, which has spent millions defending itself the past two decades, of losing a single case.

A handful of law firms are pressing the brain-cancer and headset class-action lawsuits. In some cases, they work together and in others they do not.

"We intend to go forward," said Jeffrey Morganroth, whose Michigan law firm represents six brain-cancer victims who have filed lawsuits against wireless firms, trade associations and standards bodies.

Morganroth conceded the mobile-phone industry has fared well in Blake's court to date. But he said all brain-cancer cases are not the same and that the ruling on the Newman case, litigated by the law firm of Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos and under appeal in a Richmond circuit, does not necessarily dictate the outcome of his law firm's cases.

"We have a different philosophy of how to present and package the cases," said Morganroth. Morganroth said his legal team will be relying on a different set of experts than those Angelos relied on in the Newman case. However, it is not clear that Morganroth's experts have committed to having their research and scientific careers scrutinized by industry lawyers who were highly effective in undermining testimony of Newman's experts.

At least one other plaintiff is expressing more caution. Lawyers representing a Texas brain-cancer victim recently asked Blake to stay all further proceedings in its lawsuit against wireless firms, pending the outcome of the Newman appeal in Richmond. The final brief in the appeal should be filed today. The court then likely will set a date for oral argument, which is expected to take place later this year.

Elsewhere, RCR Wireless News learned last week that Georgia's Brian Barrett, a plaintiff in one brain-cancer case before Blake, died last November. However, the lawsuit will continue on behalf of his estate and his wife.

PHOTO (COLOR): Angelos

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By Jeffrey Silva

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