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Do iPhones Emit Illegal Radiofrequency Waves? Ninth Circuit Sides with Judge Who Said No


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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Friday affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit alleging Apple iPhones emit dangerous radiation after the plaintiffs themselves conceded the opposite was true on appeal of a trial court’s summary judgment for the tech giant.

The lawsuit followed an August 2019 report in the Chicago Tribune that said its investigation into RF radiation exposure in cellphones revealed from the iPhone 7 “measured over the legal safety limit and more than double” what Apple found from its own testing.

Lawyers filed a proposed class action two days later on behalf of iPhone user Andrew Cohen seeking to represent all iPhone users. At the same time, the Federal Communications Commission launched an investigation that concluded the iPhone’s radiation exposure was actually “well within the safety limits,” according to Friday’s opinion, and revealed “no evidence of violation of the FCC’s technical standards.”

The judge overseeing the lawsuit invited the FCC to weigh in through an amicus brief over Apple’s summary judgment motion, so the commission filed one that essentially refuted the entire basis for the lawsuit by contradicting the Chicago Tribune’s investigation. Senior U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco entered summary judgment for Apple in October 2020.

The plaintiffs conceded on appeal that the phones’ radiation emissions comply with FCC regulations and instead argued the FCC doesn’t have the authority to preempt state law regarding cell phone radiofrequency radiation.

“Plaintiffs’ concession that Apple’s iPhone complies with emission levels prescribed by the FCC is fatal to their appeal,” according to the opinion, written by U.S. Circuit Judge William A. Fletcher, with concurrence from U.S. Circuit Judges Johnnie B. Rawlinson and John B. Owens.

The judges also said the FCC is duly authorized to regulate cell phone radiofrequency radiation under the Communications Act of 1934.

“Allowing state tort law to prescribe lower levels of RF radiation than the levels prescribed by the FCC would interfere with the nationwide uniformity of regulation that is the aim of the Act, and would render the FCC’s statutorily mandated balancing essentially meaningless,” according to the opinion.

Read the full opinion here:

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A graduate of the University of Oregon, Meghann worked at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, and the Idaho Statesman in Boise, Idaho, before moving to California in 2013 to work at the Orange County Register. She spent four years as a litigation reporter for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and one year as a California-based editor and reporter for and associated publications such as The National Law Journal and New York Law Journal before joining Law & Crime News. Meghann has written for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine, Bloomberg Law, ABA Journal, The Forward, Los Angeles Business Journal and the Laguna Beach Independent. Her Twitter coverage of federal court hearings in a lawsuit over homelessness in Los Angeles placed 1st in the Los Angeles Press Club's Southern California Journalism Awards for Best Use of Social Media by an Independent Journalist in 2021. An article she freelanced for Los Angeles Times Community News about a debate among federal judges regarding the safety of jury trials during COVID also placed 1st in the Orange County Press Club Awards for Best Pandemic News Story in 2021.