Thursday, October 21, 2021

Investor pushes credibility of Elizabeth Holmes’s claim that thermometers leaked her confidential information

It had the feel of an open screening of “The Crying Game” or a Korean soap opera: A concerned citizen-turned-witness turned up to testify at a bench trial of Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of diagnostic firm Theranos.

Wanda Stevens, a registered nurse from California, told the court of what the Central District of California judge believes was negligence by Theranos, which allowed batteries inside a metal feeding tube to heat up, resulting in a burn to her arm.

When the tubes used by Holmes to inject patients “cool off” in the summer were tapped out, she opened an unused door of one, Stevens said. After squeezing the tube to check the temperature, a sensor in it went “mad,” causing a heated stainless steel valve to lift up, allowing the heat to leak out. Stevens told Holmes what happened and, she said, Holmes told her to get out.

Theranos officials told Stevens that it was the hospital’s fault for allowing the lithium batteries to heat up. When Theranos founder Holmes failed to arrive at a meeting in Santa Clara, Calif., Stevens provided a handwritten statement to the court. (Holmes did not testify.)

Holmes began investing in and building her company, Theranos, in the fall of 2004 and co-founded it in 2006, after she dropped out of Stanford. The company was eventually sold to Walgreens in October 2015 for $925 million. The deal marked the first time the Palo Alto-based company’s finances had been disclosed.

Holmes is now on trial for over-billing and fraud. Prosecutors accuse her of inventing a proprietary blood-testing technology that didn’t exist, misleading investors and deceitfully promoting the technology to patients, saying she was investing a $1 billion.

Her defense attorney Robert Schwartz has argued that Holmes’ professional responsibilities aren’t dictated by her personal interests. He’s cited her role as a Stanford freshman when she earned $350,000 in Hewlett-Packard stock.

During a break in Friday’s proceedings, Stevens said she was happy with her testimony. “I did my job,” she said.

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