A Jefferson County
judge threw out the testimony of an expert witness for
the Rocky Flats beryllium victims Monday, after being
told the witness violated his gag order with an
inflammatory Web site and threatened to deliberately
cause a mistrial.
District Judge Frank Plaut also threatened to punish
the plaintiffs for hiring David Egilman by removing
their lead lawyers.
But Plaut denied the defense motion for a mistrial in
the case, in which 55 people are suing beryllium
producer Brush Wellman Inc. of Cleveland. They claim
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 Rocky Flats.
It is the first of 76 lawsuits filed by 200 beryllium
victims against Brush Wellman around the country, and
the jury's verdict was expected to influence both sides
in deciding whether to settle the other cases.
The judge read some of the offensive lines in court
-- accusations of criminal activity against Jones Day,
the defense law firm, and references to a longtime Brush
Wellman medical director being educated in Nazi Germany.
Egilman, a Brown University occupational health
historian who said he testifies about "who knew what
when," said after the judge's ruling that he never
threatened a mistrial. He also denied violating the gag
order, saying he took the Web site down by making it
Egilman also said that defense attorneys from Jones
Day hacked into the Web site illegally, and that he was
trying to catch them.
That left plaintiffs' attorney Alicia Butler
hard-pressed to explain to the court why, just after
Jones Day complained about the Web site last week, she
sent Egilman an e-mail saying, "They bit. A copy of your
new page showed up in court just now."
Plaut ignored the question of how defense attorneys
accessed the site.
The jury heard nothing of this, and was told only to
disregard Egilman's testimony. But the judge read into
the record his opinion that Egilman's comments about the
case on his Web site were "scurrilous and inflammatory,"
casting "great doubt on his legitimacy and integrity as
Beryllium is now used in a variety of products,
despite growing evidence that breathing the tiniest
amount can bring on an incurable, wasting lung ailment
in a small percentage of workers.