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Expert in mesothelioma case relied on Georgia Pacific studies

As we discussed on this blog earlier this month, a 69-year-old carpenter from Kansas filed a lawsuit in 2012 against dozens of companies who manufactured, distributed or sold asbestos-containing products used for drywall work. He is dying from a combination of diabetes, heart disease and mesothelioma. The only defendant still contesting its responsibility is Georgia Pacific, which the plaintiff says manufactured the drywall-joint sealing compounds he typically used.

Georgia Pacific denies the man’s claims that he only or primarily used its products, going so far as to say the man suffers from memory loss. He is too ill to attend trial. It also argues that even if he did routinely use its admittedly asbestos-containing joint compounds, he couldn’t have gotten his mesothelioma from using them.

To prove that contention, the company brought forward an expert witness to testify on Nov. 14. That witness is a medical doctor whose role was to give his opinion how likely it is that the carpenter’s mesothelioma was caused by Georgia Pacific’s drywall joint compounds.

The doctor did not examine the plaintiff or ask him any questions. Instead, the doctor relied on medical records and considered studies about the relative mesothelioma risk of certain asbestos-containing products. The studies covered case studies, the relative dangers of Chrysotile, amphibole and termolite asbestos fibers, and the epidemiology of asbestos-caused illnesses.

After reading the plaintiff’s medical records and considering those studies, the doctor concluded the Kansas man’s mesothelioma was more likely caused by exposure to asbestos-laden insulation in the general areas where he worked, rather than by his direct exposure to asbestos-tainted joint compound. In fact, he found there was likely no increased risk of mesothelioma from using asbestos-containing joint compounds because they contained Chrysotile, a type of asbestos fiber less likely to cause cancer than others.

At least 13 of the studies the doctor relied upon were written by researchers hired by Georgia Pacific itself, as one of the plaintiff’s attorneys pointed out. Furthermore, he seemed unaware that the joint compounds contained not only Chrysotile but also termolite asbestos.

The doctor also said the exposure range of an individual product is “kind of like herding turkeys.”

Pinpointing the source of asbestos exposure may be difficult, but it can be done. And, if you have an asbestos-caused disease and a product you frequently used contained asbestos, why isn't that basically enough?

Source: The Madison-St. Clair Record, “‘Like herding turkeys’ - specialist’s take on gathering exposure history and ranges in asbestos trial,” Heather Isringhausen Gvillo, Nov. 15, 2013

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