The Expert: Dr. William Alleyne, a pulmonary physician in South Carolina, testifies for the plaintiff and concludes that she developed mesothelioma through exposure to asbestos.
Offering expert testimony in Weist v. Kraft-Heinz, et al., a 2021 South Carolina trial in which the plaintiff claims the deceased patient developed mesothelioma through exposure to asbestos on the clothes of family members, Dr. William Alleyne, a triple board certified pulmonologist and critical care specialist, concluded that this theory was correct.
In this video clip, Alleyne begins by elaborating on the series of events that led to this patient’s demise. Although her immediate cause of death was that her heart stopped, he explains that in her case, this was due to a massive pulmonary embolism that blocked the blood flow to her heart. He connects this to the fact that cancers like mesothelioma leave a patient with a much higher chance of developing dangerous blood clots, so whatever caused her mesothelioma was also tied to the pulmonary embolus and therefore was a major contributor to her demise. It only remained to ask what caused her mesothelioma.
The sequence of events here was that the patient presented to her primary care doctor in South Carolina complaining of pain. That physician determined that her pain was related to the mesothelioma in her lung. The diagnosis was confirmed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She was then referred to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts for surgical removal of the tumor. On chest exploration, she was found to be unresectable. Just before discharge from the hospital floor, she fell and sustained a hip fracture. It was then decided to fly her back to South Carolina. During that flight, she developed significant shortness of breath and after admission to a hospital there it was determined that she had suffered a pulmonary embolus. She was started on anticoagulants then eventually stabilized and discharged to home and eventually hospice care.
Surgery for mesothelioma is very difficult. It requires the removal of the lining of the lung and sometimes the entire lung. It is best to have this type of surgery done at a tertiary referral center such as was done here.
Finally, the expert is questioned about pleural plaques. These are benign, calcified areas of thickened pleura or lung lining. They typically do not result in restriction of lung function or turn into cancer, but they may be an indicator that the patient may have a higher risk for cancers like this one. They are caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos and tend to develop 10 to 30 years after asbestos exposure. This of course strengthened the expert’s opinion that this patient’s mesothelioma was due to chronic significant exposure to and inhalation of asbestos.
Alleyne’s calm and straightforward testimony certainly contributed to the $32 million verdict.
Gary Gansar, MD, is residency-trained in general surgery. He served as Chief of Surgery and Staff at Elmwood Medical Center and on the Medical Executive Committee at Touro Infirmary and Mercy Hospital in New Orleans, LA. Dr. Gansar was Board Certified in general surgery while in active practice. He joined AMFS in 2015 as a Physician Medical Director.
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