Cellphones To Blame For My Tumor
Man wants more than R500m and a health warning on phones
Journalist: Laurice Taitz
December 27, 1998
A Pretoria man is suing two cellphone companies for more than R500-million because he developed a brain tumour which, he claims, was caused by his cellphone. Terry Hutchings, 47, is suing M-Tel and Vodac in his personal capacity and on behalf of “the citizens of South Africa” who have used cellphones and services manufactured, marketed or supplied by the two companies.
Hutchings’s lawyer, Peter Soller, said he was suing the companies as they provided airtime contracts and were responsible for the transmission of cellphone signals.
Hutchings was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in July. In August surgeons removed a tumor “the size of a golf ball”. He has undergone radiation treatment 33 times and has developed epilepsy.
“I have had a cellphone since the day the networks switched them on,” he said. “I used to spend a few hours a month talking on my phone.
“In February I kept noticing peculiar smells and there was a buzzing in my right ear. Then my ear started to tingle and I experienced a burning sensation. It would come and go but it got worse as time went on.”
Hutchings is suing the two companies in terms of the Constitution, which proclaims the right to dignity, the right to life and to bodily and psychological integrity.
According to the particulars of the claim, Vodac and M-Tel are being held responsible for launching and issuing cellular phones and for causing transmission devices to be set up that emit a radio frequency which is known or ought to be known by them as being potentially harmful.
Hutchings is suing for R2,5-million for pain and suffering, for the emotional trauma of dealing with the probability of premature death and leaving behind his wife and two young sons, and for not being able to provide the care and financial support to which he was accustomed before having the tumor removed.
He is suing for a further R500-million on behalf of all people who have been adversely affected. He has asked the court to order that all cellphone suppliers issue warnings that their systems may be harmful to humans.
MTN’s spokesman, Jacques Sellschop, said M-Tel had received the summons and handed it to lawyers.
“There is no conclusive scientific proof which links brain cancer causally with cellphone radiation,” he said. “For every claim to this effect, there is another to dispute it.
“However, MTN puts the welfare of its users ahead of all other considerations in this respect. We have commissioned the CSIR to research and report on any radiation emitted from cellular terminal equipment in different environments and locations. And we have commissioned the department of neurology at the University of Pretoria Medical School to do research into neurological effects, if any, resulting from the use of cellular equipment.”
Tanya Cain, the general manager in charge of finance at Vodac, said the matter had been handed to the company’s attorneys and they would be defending it accordingly.