Asbestos 'historian' is a major 'revisionist'

The Madison County Record Jul. 17, 2010, 8:51am

"He's sort of like one of the historians of the asbestos story over the years," is how McLean County Circuit Court Judge Michael Prall described Barry Castleman, the so-called expert witness who testified recently on behalf of plaintiffs in an asbestos case against Owens-Illinois in Prall's courtroom.

The only problem is, Castleman has a history of not being bothered with inconvenient facts and tailoring others to fit his narrative of ruthless manufacturers.

A chemical engineer and environmentalist, Castleman presents a clear bias against the makers of asbestos, painting a historically inaccurate, one-sided portrait of alleged disregard for the safety of employees and customers.

When a lawyer for Owens-Illinois asked if he had read a deposition, Castleman responded, "I don't always credit the statements of corporate managers as the most reliable."

Whether Castleman credits such statements or not, he certainly ought to read them if he's going to present himself as a plaintiffs' expert witness knowledgeable about the facts of the case and the history of the asbestos industry.

Questioned about another document provided to him by defense attorneys, Castleman quipped, "I don't read everything lawyers send me."

Nor did Castleman read the personnel manual, the safety manual, or the medical manual that Owens-Illinois provided to customers using their products.

Castleman appears uninterested in any information that might contradict his notions of corporate culpability. Nevertheless, he doesn't hesitate to accuse now-deceased company officials of conspiring to suppress information – information often made public in documents he refuses to read.

Castleman appears to have no qualms about suppressing information on behalf of the plaintiffs and plaintiffs lawyers who hire him, however – as he did, for instance, when advising a scientist to resist subpoenas for medical records of alleged asbestos victims.

Castleman's bias appears to be so brazen that Owens-Illinois attorneys asked Judge Prall to strike his testimony.

Suggesting an educational bias of his own, Prall declined. "I was a history major myself," he explained.

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