Machine not cause of illnesses, jury rules

2 NSA employees claimed injuries were result of electromagnetic field


Machines used to erase audio tapes at the National Security Agency did not cause two workers' health problems, an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court jury that was asked to rule on a $10 million lawsuit has found.

The verdict, reached Tuesday night after about two hours of deliberation, ended a two-and-a-half week trial in which medical experts and scientists disagreed about whether the equipment caused a brain tumor in Thomas E. Van Meter, a retired NSA employee from Odenton, and a brain lesion in Tommy Gerald Grimes, a Severn man who still works for the agency.

In seeking $10 million from Electro-Matic Products Inc. in Chicago, the men claimed the electromagnetic field around the machines, called degaussers, was so strong that it caused their illnesses. But the jury found in favor of the company.

The six jurors found that the men did not link their ailments to the equipment.

"I think it puts an end to the argument that magnetic fields from electrical devices cause cancer," Harold M. Walter, lawyer for Electro-Matic Products, said yesterday.

NSA was not sued.

The men had been unable to convince Judge Eugene M. Lerner to turn the case into a class action.

Theodore M. Flerlage, a lawyer with the law firm of Peter G. Angelos who represented the men, said yesterday that he had made no decision on whether to appeal. Van Meter declined to comment, and Grimes could not be reached.

The lawsuit was one of several which the Angelos firm has filed against the company. The others are in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, where one was dismissed and the others, while closed, could be reopened, according to court records.

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