published June 20, 2001
Beryllium workers’ witness denies
try to force mistrial
GOLDEN, Colo. - An occupational health historian
who testified on behalf of former nuclear facility workers who say
they were sickened by beryllium denied he violated a gag
A state judge threw out David Egilman’s testimony
Monday after being told the Brown University professor made comments
about the case on his web site and threatened to deliberately cause
Judge Frank Plaut threatened to punish the
plaintiffs by removing their lead lawyers. But he denied the defense
motion for a mistrial in the case, in which 55 people are suing
Brush Wellman, Inc. of Cleveland.
Beryllium is used in a
variety of products, despite growing evidence that breathing the
tiniest amount can bring on an incurable, wasting lung
Mr. Egilman’s site accuses Brush Wellman’s law firm
of criminal activity and makes references to a company medical
director being educated in Nazi Germany. Portions of its content
were read by Judge Plaut in the courtroom.
Mr. Egilman said
he did not violate the order because he required a password for
access to the web site. He said defense lawyers hacked into the
site. The jury did not hear discussion about the site and was told
to disregard his testimony.
The workers say Brush Wellman
conspired with the federal government to conceal the dangers of
beryllium for 50 years because it was needed to make nuclear weapons
at the Rocky Flats facility. It is the first of 76 lawsuits filed
against Brush Wellman by 200 beryllium victims across the country.
The jury’s verdict is expected to influence whether settlements
should be made in other cases.
In 1999, The Blade documented
a 50-year pattern of misconduct by the federal government and the
beryllium industry. Among the findings: Government and industry
officials knowingly allowed workers to be exposed to unsafe levels
of beryllium dust. The series sparked major safety
About 1,200 people nationwide have contracted
beryllium disease, a fatal lung ailment, since the 1940s, including
at least 75 present or former workers at the Brush Wellman plant