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Court Victory is a First for Cell-phone Programmers
Sun Sentinel, October 2, 2005
By Nancy McVicar, Health Writer
Price thought it was just another in a series of sinus infections. Her
head and eyes hurt, and she was vomiting. But then Price had a seizure,
and a brain scan found something far more troubling.
I got home, the phone was ringing. It was the doctor's office, and they
told me, `Brace yourself. Honey, you have a brain tumor.' I was
standing by the refrigerator, and I just collapsed, saying, `no, no,
no, it can't be a brain tumor,'" she recalled.
her diagnosis in 1999 and surgery to remove most of the tumor, Price
started looking for answers. She became convinced that exposure to
radio-frequency radiation on the job, where she programmed cell phones
for new customers, had caused the tumor.
May, an administrative law judge who handles worker's compensation
claims awarded her $30,000 to pay her medical bills and other expenses.
Price may be the first person to convince a judge that her illness was
caused by radio-frequency radiation. The decision is unlikely to have
widespread repercussions for the cell phone industry, however, because
the settlement was small.
customers at Advanced Communications Systems in northern California
were doctors, firefighters, police departments and security departments
for casinos, and she loved her work. She used a cell phone several
hours each day, and the room in which she worked contained transmitters
that emitted radio-frequency radiation, she said.
said when she filed a workers comp claim, her boss fired her,
eliminating her health insurance. Then she lost the case. The Native
American single mother of two daughters was devastated. She turned to
Tribal Health, a government health agency for Native Americans, to get
I hadn't been Indian, I would have died," she said.
former boss, Dave Bohlen, said that he did not fire Price, that she
quit based on her doctor's advice that she not return to work there.
Bohlen said he dropped the insurance because she was no longer an
employee. He called her worker's comp case "frivolous" and said there
was no proof her tumor was caused by working in his small shop.
nothing harmful going on here," he said.
Price recovered from brain surgery, she went to the Internet and found
researchers studying the biological effects of radio-frequency
radiation, and got to know them.
"I would call them up and say, `You are absolutely dead on.
If a rat could talk, this is what it would say. I'm the human rat.' "
couldn't find an attorney to take her case until she contacted Carl
Hilliard, a semi-retired lawyer and president of the Wireless Consumers
Alliance, a California-based consumer-advocacy group.
volunteered to represent her pro bono and re-filed her workers comp
case. Hilliard said his group has represented cell phone users in
issues involving poor service, billing problems and misrepresentations
by cell phone service providers.
the ones who filed a case saying federal law does not pre-empt state
law [on consumer issues] and won that case four years ago," Hilliard
brought in Dr. Nachman Brautbar, an occupational toxicologist and
clinical professor of medicine at the University of Southern California
School of Medicine, to review Price's medical records.
has been an expert witness in a number of high-profile cases, including
the chromium poisonings from polluted drinking water portrayed in the
movie Erin Brockovich.
reviewed Price's case and wrote a report supporting her claim that the
tumor was caused by exposure to radio-frequency radiation.
not a money issue, suing the company, it's a health and safety issue,"
said Price, who speaks to school assemblies and classes about the need
to use a headset when talking on a cell phone. "We need to explain to
people that just like putting on condoms, you have to take this
precautionary measure to make the product be as safe as it can be."
McVicar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4593.
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