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HAYES v. RAYTHEON CO.

November 12, 1992

BARBARA HAYES, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
RAYTHEON CO., et al., Defendants.


MORAN


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES B. MORAN

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Barbara Hayes, Special Administrator for the Estate of Cyndee Hayes (Hayes), and Carol Sampson (Sampson) bring this action for damages based on theories of product liability, negligence, and wrongful death as a result of illnesses allegedly sustained by plaintiffs as a result of exposure to "radiant energy" emitted from Raytheon video display terminals (VDTs). Defendants Raytheon Company (Raytheon) and Raytheon Service Company (Raytheon Service) now move for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion is granted.

 Federal subject matter jurisdiction is based on 28 U.S.C. § 1332, the parties being of diverse citizenship and the amount in controversy exceeding $ 50,000.

 FACTS

 Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Renovitch v. Kaufman, 905 F.2d 1040, 1044 (7th Cir. 1990). The movant has the burden of demonstrating lack of genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 , 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). In assessing a motion for summary judgment we examine the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits resolving all doubts in favor of the non-movant. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). For that purpose we draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant, but we are "not required to draw every conceivable inference from the record -- only those inferences that are reasonable." Bank Leumi Le-Israel, B.M. v. Lee, 928 F.2d 232, 236 (7th Cir. 1991). The facts recited reflect the above standard.

 Raytheon Company designed, manufactured, distributed and sold programmable terminal systems, including the 1974 Model No. 4101 (hereinafter "the programmable terminal system"). Raytheon Service is a corporation that distributed and sold the programmable terminal system. This system was installed at the offices of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in 1974.

 Plaintiff's decedent, Hayes, worked at the Chicago office of KLM Airlines from May 1977 until 1980. Sampson worked at the same office from April 1979 until December 1980. During the course of their employment plaintiffs operated programmable terminal systems manufactured by Raytheon. Both Hayes and Sampson held the same job, which consisted of taking reservations over the telephone and entering them into the computer system.

 In February 1981, Sampson was seen by Dr. Milton Zaret (Dr. Zaret), an ophthalmologist, for the first time. She was reexamined by Dr. Zaret on four separate occasions, the last examination being on March 10, 1986. Dr. Zaret prepared a report in February 1984 concerning his examinations of Sampson covering the period from February 1981 through November 1983. Based upon his review of Sampson's medical history and a finding of "extensive posterior capsular changes" in her eyes, Dr. Zaret concluded that Sampson suffered from "Hertzian-induced" cataracts, that is, cataracts resulting from exposure to "radiant energy." The doctor diagnosed Sampson with three "radiant energy injuries" -- "radiant energy cataracts," carcinoma in situ of the uterine cervix and polyps in her colon. *fn1" This, combined with her history of having used VDTs, led Dr. Zaret to reach this diagnosis. As of 1988, Sampson's gynecological problem was at an arrested stage (Zaret dep. at 160-61).

 On November 2, 1980, Hayes died of cervical cancer. Although Dr. Zaret never personally examined Hayes, he examined her medical records and prepared a written report in April 1989 concerning his review of her records. Dr. Zaret's opinion is that there was a causal connection between Hayes' cancer of the uterine cervix and her exposure to radiant energy at levels emitted by VDTs, such as those used at KLM during her employment.

 At this time Dr. Zaret is the only expert who has submitted an opinion on the plaintiffs' behalf. Dr. Zaret is a medical doctor licensed in the State of New York. He has researched the effects of radiant energy for the past thirty-five years (Zaret aff. P 1). Doctor Zaret testified that he spends approximately half of his time in personal research, most of which relates to cancer (Zaret dep. at 10). His theory is essentially that the VDTs at KLM were emitting "extraordinary levels of non-ionizing radiation" and that, in light of plaintiffs' use of the VDTS, their physical symptoms and medical history, their "radiant energy injuries" (the cataracts and cancer of the uterine cervix) were caused by radiant exposure from the VDTs.

 Dr. Zaret relied on a survey report that had been prepared by Eli Port (Port) of Radiation Detection Services, in concluding that significant amounts of radiation were being emitted from the VDTs. In March 1980, Port had inspected the room at the KLM office where the VDTs were located, for radiation leakage, and documented his findings on a survey report. This report noted that there were "spurious off-scale readings" which, according to Dr. Zaret, established that there was significant radiation leakage from the VDTs. Port, however, concluded in his report that there had been "no leakage radiation detectable above normal background for any terminal." Throughout his deposition, Dr. Zaret repeatedly questioned the reliability of Port's report. Dr. Zaret stated that Port did not know what he was doing and that he (Dr. Zaret) would not rely on "anything this man said" (Zaret dep. at 203-08). Dr. Zaret maintained that Port had used the wrong instrument for measuring radio frequency radiation and, furthermore, that Port had not used a reliable methodology for detecting hertzian radiation. Nevertheless, Dr. Zaret stated that, despite the shortcomings of Port's analysis, the fact that the needle went off scale demonstrated that extraordinary levels of radiation were being emitted from the VDTs (Zaret dep. at 208-09). The actual level of radio frequency emissions from the VDTs cannot be determined from Port's survey report (Zaret dep. at 209). While Dr. Zaret stated at his deposition that there is no known minimum threshold of exposure to radiant energy that can cause radiant energy cataracts, he further noted that "there should be a threshold with respect to which cataracts form and that it should vary between people," but that a number of factors would have to be considered (Zaret dep. at 188). *fn2"

 DISCUSSION

 A. Admissibility of Expert ...


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