27 January 2004
BERLIN – Lawyers in Berlin on Tuesday welcomed US court acceptance of a precedent-setting lawsuit brought by nearly 450 German soldiers who believe radar equipment built by US companies caused them to develop cancer.
The chief attorney representing the Bundeswehr personnel, Reiner Geulen, said he is optimistic about chances of winning 1 million dollars in compensation for each of his clients.
A court in El Paso, Texas, on Monday agreed to hear the case brought by German Bundeswehr soldiers suffering from leukemia or testicular cancer who claim they contracted their illness after exposure to radar equipment made by American defense contractors like Raytheon, Lucent Technologies and ITT Industries.
“We view the decision by the court in El Paso as a significant success,” Geulen said.
The US case was first filed in autumn 2002 by soldiers who are seeking compensation that could reach as high as USD 450 million (EUR 358 million), according to a report in the German edition of the Financial Times.
During the first phase of the proceedings, which is expected to continue until June, the court will grant the plaintiffs access to internal corporate documents that could help build their case.
Most of the effected workers were mechanics who operated and maintained radar facilities and were consequently exposed to high levels of radiation.
They believe those exposures later caused them to develop leukaemia or testicular cancer. The alleged exposures took place over more than three decades, from 1958 to 1994.
German military officials have issued no response to the El Paso ruling except to say it will not affect separate cases brought by about 800 German soldiers from the west German Bundeswehr and the army of the former Communist east Germany.
They are suing the German Defence Ministry for compensation for pain and suffering caused by working conditions involving the radar equipment.
Nearly 200 of the soldiers have already died. An expert commission researching those conditions came to the conclusion it was “highly probable” the victims were exposed to radiation by the radar devices, Geulen said.
Subject: German news