Legal Newsline

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Lead paint defense witness attacks plaintiffs witness' research

By Ann Maher | Aug 21, 2013

SAN JOSE, Calif. (Legal Newsline) -- Defense witness Dr. David Garabrant on Tuesday continued to try to discredit research conducted by a key plaintiff witness in the lead paint public nuisance trial now into its sixth week in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

Under cross examination by plaintiffs' attorney Vincent Parrett of Motley Rice on Tuesday morning, Garabrant said he did not agree with findings of the National Toxicology Program (NTP) on the relationship between elevated blood lead levels and diminished cognition because the agency (administered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) "did not do very careful review of evidence."

Garabrant, a professor of occupational medicine and epidemiology at the University of Michigan, testified on behalf of paint manufacturer defendants being sued by 10 cities and counties in California - including Los Angeles County and the cities of San Diego and San Francisco. The People of California v. Atlantic Richfield Company et al. seeks monetary damages - estimated to exceed $1.2 billion- - from the companies and parent companies of one-time lead-based paint makers for an abatement program that would eliminate lead paint from homes in their jurisdictions - to protect public health.

Public buildings, including schools, are exempted from the litigation, which focuses solely on residential properties.

Defendants include The Sherwin-Williams Company, ConAgra Grocery Products, DuPont and Atlantic Richfield Company.

During Tuesday's court session, Parrett asked repeatedly if Garabrant agreed with results of research adopted by the NTP from multiple studies showing impaired academic achievement in children with blood lead levels as high as 10 micrograms per deciliter and as low as less than 5 micrograms per deciliter.

Garabrant said he disagreed with the methodology in research adopted by the NTP.

He said the NTP relied on the research of plaintiffs witness Dr. Bruce Lanphear, who according to Garabrant, did not do a thorough job and produced unreliable conclusions.

Garabrant said that the NTP adopted one-sided evidence.

"You can't rely on evidence you like and disregard evidence you don't like," he said.

Parrett asked Garabrant if he thought Lanphear misled through his work.

"Dr. Lanphear was part of a number of committees," Garabrant said. "He had an important voice in the review of literature ... (His) conclusions were not thorough or balanced. Other members of committees voiced that."

Parrett cited numerous experts and organizations that have adopted the theory that blood lead levels at 10 micrograms per deciliter or below harms the IQ of children.

"And we have you saying there is no evidence that levels below 10 (micrograms per deciliter) harm children," Parrett said.

"No, that is not true," Garabrant responded. "There are many other people who agree with me."

Parrett asked if Garabrant had published work?

"No," he responded.

"Have you had your work peer reviewed?" Parrett asked.

"I would be delighted to have it reviewed," Garabrant said.

Their exchange ended as Parrett provided a hypothetical case of a 2-year-old boy living in a single parent, low income, pre-1948 residence.

"If your theory is wrong what happens to the boy?" asked Parrett.

"There is no evidence to support that I am wrong," Garabrant said.

Defense testimony will continue Wednesday and is expected to conclude Thursday as both sides are nearing their time limit of 40 hours to present.

Closing arguments are expected at the end of September.

Presiding Judge James Kleinberg will issue a ruling within 90 days of closing.

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