Teitelbaum takes the stand, is cross-examined, and makes way for Yang
Teitelbaum was the founder of Poison Lab, a Denver-based company that did asbestos testing for W.R. Grace in the late ’70s. e was a former Grace researcher and creator of the “hamster study.” Government prosecutors asked them questions focused on both the results of tests and whether Grace placed restrictions on who could know this information.
Teitelbaum came up first as a witness. A longtime medical professional and ordained rabbi in his late 60s or 70s, Teitelbaum founded the Poison Lab company in Denver, Colo., which dealt with toxicology. Poison Lab was eventually sold to Chemed Corporation, which was also owned by Grace. That was how Teitelbaum found himself receiving x-rays of Grace employees from both Libby and a South Carolina mine owned by Grace.
Poison Lab was asked to examine these x-rays and other data to look for signs of disease, Teitelbaum said. Teitelbaum explained that two independent and respected radiologists in Denver were contracted to do the actual testing.
Government attorney Kevin Cassidy presented a letter from Mairlyn Leczinski, a Chemed employee, to Teitelbaum regarding the testing, dated August 24, 1977. After asking him to identify the letter and various other questions, Cassidy presented a letter written from Teitelbaum to Henry Eschenbach, one of the defendants, describing the results of Poison Lab’s study. Teitelbaum read his letter, which said that a “high attack rate” of asbestos was found in the study’s Libby group. Several jurors appeared fidgety as Teitelbaum described these sometimes confusing findings. “Reading an x-ray is an art,” Teitelbaum said.
After a flurry of objections from the defense during Teitelbaum’s testimony, Molloy clarified what the witness could and could not discuss. “There are obvious differences between clinical medicine” and when someone appears in court as a witness, Molloy said, asserting that Teitelbaum can only comment on what knowledge Grace had, and should not focus on the medical implications in his testimony.
Grace attorney Barbara Harding vigorously cross-examined Teitelbaum, followed by Eschenbach’s attorney, Gary Winters. Both sought to place doubt on the methods of the study, asking questions about the procedures the radiologists followed. Harding worked to cast doubt on Teitelbaum as an “insider” witness on the company’s dealings. She said Teitelbaum did not have any knowledge of Grace’s past testing and policies on its workers, nor did he know anything about its actions after his study was completed. Harding also asked whether one of the study’s purposes was to find if asbestos problems existed at Grace’s South Carolina plant, where asbestos issues were not found. Teitelbaum replied, Yes.
Finally, she fixed upon the request for an “unbiased” study in Leczinski’s letter to Teitelbaum and asked whether Grace restricted the medical professional from distributing his findings to others.
“I don’t recall if there was any restriction,” Teitelbaum said, adding that he sent the letter discussing test results to Eschenbach only.
As a final cross-examination point, the defense questioned whether asbestos was the sole cause of disease among Libby miners by describing cases of other disease found in Libby mine workers by Teitelbaum’s study. Cassidy handled the redirect for the prosecution after cross-examination ended, addressing few of the defense’s points before ending quickly.
After Teitelbaum finished, government attorney Kris McLean began his questioning of a new witness, Julie Yang. Yang, an older woman with dark black hair hailing from California, worked as a Grace researcher for 20 years and created the hamster study described by past witness Heyman Duecker. McLean had Yang examine a memo about the study written from her to Duecker, who was her boss at the time. Yang explained several pages of handwritten notes attached to the memo before court adjourned for a 15 minute break at 10:00 a.m.
– Ryan Thompson (posted 11:20 a.m.)