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Zurich says it won't pay for cell phone brain-cancer lawsuits

Insurers and cell phone companies are scrambling for cover under the fire of lawsuits claiming that the high-frequency radiation emanating from cell phones harms their users.

The cell phone companies think they should be covered by liability insurance policies, but insurers disagree. Zurich Financial Services filed two requests, one in New York and one in Texas, that the court absolve it from the responsibility of paying for cell phone-related class action lawsuits.

The lawsuits seek to have every cell phone user provided with a hands-free headset, which allows users to talk without holding the handset, allegedly a source of cancer-causing radiation, up to their heads.

According to Mealey's Litigation Report, Zurich commercial liability policies that insured Audiovox Corp. in 1998 and 1999, contain exclusions for lawsuits relating to injuries and product defects, which the insurer says exempt it from paying for any damages or legal fees related to the cell phone lawsuits.

And in six different liability policies that Zurich sold to Nokia Inc., exclusions pertaining to the company's product mean that Zurich is not responsible for any costs incurred when the company defends itself against lawsuits or is required to pay damages.

Zurich also wants to make sure the cell phone companies' other insurers pay their fair share if the court decides that Zurich must pay up.

Zurich was not available for comment on the litigation.

In April 2001, class action lawsuits over cell phone risks were filed in Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania. The lawsuits seek to have every cell phone user provided with a hands-free headset, which allows users to talk without holding the handset, allegedly a source of cancer-causing radiation, up to their heads.

Cell phone manufacturers have denied any link among cell phones, radiation, and health problems.

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