The hamster test did not matter to Locke, Bernick asserts during cross-examination
Robert Locke thought that W.R. Grace’s tests on hamsters exposed to asbestos were “a snore,” defense attorney David Bernick said during his continued cross-examination of Locke. Bernick referred to a Society of Occupational Health Conference which focused on asbestos’ dangers to humans, “people news” which was much more captivating than Grace’s presentation on the hamster test during the conference, Bernick said.
“The hamster study was a little lab study that you didn’t care about, frankly, no one cared about,” Bernick said.
Bernick also continued to question the scientific validity of “drop test” studies that Grace used to measure airborne concentrations of asbestos, studies which the prosecution explained to the jury earlier on. Bernick pointed to past witness and chemist Julie Yang’s criticism of the drop test.
“It was a test of the real world. It was never intended to be the real world,” Locke replied.
As Bernick continued to hammer away at the test, Locke later added, “I believe they dropped the drop test.”
“I think that was going to be my line,” Bernick replied, laughing loudly.
Bernick also described Grace’s decision to end its opposition of OSHA regulations in 1977, a decision that Locke didn’t recall knowing about. Bernick argued that Grace was going to accept its tremolite being treated “exactly the same way” as other material categorized as asbestos, and the defense attorney aggressively asked whether Locke knew the new “company policy.”
Appearing agitated, Locke reminded Bernick that he had moved to a different position in the company and was less involved in “the tremolite business” by the late 1970s.
“I understand that…I guess my question was a very modest one,” Bernick said in a sarcastic tone.
Bernick also displayed a chart to show what he described as a drop in asbestos fiber concentration in Libby ore over time. According to Bernick, the Mine Bureau once sent a letter to defendant Jack Wolter commending Grace for operating the “cleanest” mine they had ever seen in Libby.
As Bernick continued questioning, Locke sometimes replied that he could not comment on “the time in question” or did not remember certain events.
Court was adjourned at 5:00 p.m., and Judge Molloy again reminded jurors to avoid talking about the case with friends, family or the media. Locke’s cross-examination will continue tomorrow at 8:30 a.m.
–Ryan Thompson (posted at 7:20 p.m.)