Potential US litigation against mobile phone companies is worrying UK insurers and operators, says Innes Wood

A wave of copycat mobile phone claims could hit UK insurers, if a series of high profile US cases go against the major operators.

The billion-dollar claims against the likes of Vodaphone are firmly in the mould of the tobacco lawsuits.

These cases pose a clear threat to our claims environment. The UK is currently in a state of limbo with all eyes on the results from the mobile telecommunications and health research programme.

While no investigations have been published the results of this research may have an effect on claims against the UK mobile phone industry.

There are two possible causes of action, which could be brought arising out of the use of a mobile phone.

First, product liability claims which could be based upon the notion that mobile phone manufacturers and the network operators knew of the risk posed to their customers, but failed to warn them of these risks.

Claims could arise from the failure to provide adequate warnings to mobile phone users, which could see phones carrying health warning stickers.

The second possible type of claim lies within the employers' liability field.

Many employees, such as sales representatives, are expected to spend many hours a day using their mobile phones.

Employers are required to maintain a safe system of work, which includes the provision of proper warnings and instructions.

If a causal link between the use of a mobile phone and an adverse effect on health is established, then employers and their insurers could face substantial claims for damages.

Obviously such claims cannot succeed without supporting expert evidence and while insurers and the phone industry wait, the best advice is to monitor and contribute towards the research currently commissioned.

Insurers should also be aware of the tobacco litigation in the US and the consequence of sitting back and waiting for developments to occur.

  • Innes Wood is a partner with Weightman Vizards

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