Some Ask Why, Some Say WiFi: Man Sues Neighbor Over Use of Electronics

Arthur Firstenberg, 59, has filed a lawsuit raising a claim of the still controversial theory of “electromagnetic sensitivities.” He demanded that his neighbor Raphaela Monribot limit her use of her computer, IPhone and other devices due to his sensitivities. He is now suing her for $530,000.

There remains a lack of scientific support for such claims, though a growing number of people complain of physical and neurological symptoms linked to electronics.

Firstenberg says that he experienced waves of nausea, vertigo, body aches, dizziness, heart arrhythmia and insomnia.

I do not see how such a claim can succeed given the ubiquitous use of such devices. Generally, nuisance-like claims exclude extrasensitive individuals. A victim must experience objectively unreasonable interference with the enjoyment of their property. In the case of Rogers v. Elliott, 15 N.E. 768 (Mass. 1888), the plaintiff suffered convulsions from hearing the bells of a Catholic Church each day. The bell ringer at the Church admitted that “he had no love for the plaintiff.” The court nevertheless rejected the claim stating

“If one’s right to use his property were to depend upon the effect of the use upon a person or peculiar temperament or disposition, or upon one suffering from an uncommon disease, the standard for measuring it would be so uncertain and fluctuating as to paralyze industrial enterprises.”

Battery claims are even more difficult since the use of such devices lacks intent to harm and are not viewed as an unreasonable or offensive touching.

The dispute will be heard in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Thus far, the weight of scientific opinion appears to run heavily against such claims. Lawsuits over power lines have been unsuccessful on analogous lawsuits in the past.

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