Prosecution Wraps up Direct Exam of Dr. Whitehouse
After the lunch break, Dr. Alan Whitehouse resumed his direct examination, answering questions from Assistant United States Attorney Kris McLean. Initially, Dr. Whitehouse took the jury through a biology lesson, explaining the functioning of the lung and the progression of asbestos-related diseases. According to Dr. Whitehouse, exposure to asbestos is akin to “inhaling a needle.” The needle creates inflammation that can lead to pleural plaques, which may progress until the death of the patient. Dr. Whitehouse described pleural plaques as scarring on the lining of the lung.The government appeared to be using Dr. Whitehouse’s testimony to bolster its allegations that WR Grace and the individual defendants violated the Clean Air Act. Dr. Whitehouse’s testimony appeared relevant in two ways. First, the government needs to prove that the defendants knew that asbestos posed an “imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.” Dr. Whitehouse testified that exposure to asbestos can creates asbestos-related diseases, including cancers (lung, bowel, mesothelioma) and pleural diseases (plaques, thickening, effusions, asbestosis). He testified that the body cannot rid itself of asbestos and that the disease is progressive. He described it as a continuum that begins with pleural plaque and ends with death.
The government also has to prove that the defendants knowingly released asbestos after the statute of limitations date of November 3, 1999. Kris McLean spent a significant amount of time this afternoon leading Dr. Whitehouse through his diagnosis of several patients with asbestos-related diseases. Dr. Whitehouse testified about four specific patients that he diagnosed as having asbestos-related diseases: Mrs. and Mrs. Parker, Mel Burnett, and Wendy Challinor. Each of these individuals became his patient after 2000 and was diagnosed between 2001 and 2007. Of particular importance, Dr. Whitehouse testified that he first diagnosed Mrs. Parker as having an asbestos-related disease in 2005 and Mr. Parker in 2007. Dr. Whitehouse testified that he saw Mrs. Parker six-to-eight weeks ago and she had a new pleural plaque.
Mr. and Mrs. Parker were in the courtroom during this testimony and watched Dr. Whitehouse show the jury the Parkers’ chest x-rays. Both Mr. and Mrs. Parker became emotional during this testimony, especially when Dr. Whitehouse testified about his observations of the progression of asbestos-related disease from pleural plaque to death.
– Andrew King-Ries (posted 3:40 p.m.)