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Paternity issues delay division of damages in asbestos lawsuit

Recently, a judge ruled that two women who claimed to be the daughters of a deceased man could intervene in a widow's lawsuit against several companies she claims were responsible for the man's death from cancer. Now, a jury is tasked with dividing the damages awarded in the lawsuit among the three women.

The court proceedings began in 1998, when a class-action lawsuit was filed against several oil and chemical companies including DuPont and Mobil Oil. In the suit, the plaintiffs alleged that the companies negligently and maliciously exposed employees to asbestos, knowing that they were placing the workers in danger of contracting mesothelioma and similar diseases.

After the widow's husband passed away from cancer in May 1999, she joined in the lawsuit, alleging that her husband's exposure to asbestos had caused his disease and his death. In 2010, the widow reached a settlement with several of the companies named in the lawsuit, including Goodyear, Bridgestone, Chevron USA, PPG Industries, Unocal, Owens-Illinois, and B&B Engineering & Supply.

Following the settlement, however, two women came forth claiming to be the deceased man's daughters. As such, they claimed, they were entitled to a portion of the proceeds from the settlement.

The widow denied that the women were her husband's daughters, and a hearing was held. The women presented the results of a DNA test which proved that they shared a biological parent. The widow argued that the test only proved that they were sisters, not that her husband was their father.

But the judge ruled in favor of the women, and sent the case to a jury where the settlement proceeds will be divided up among the three women.

Source: The Southeast Texas Record, "Judge settles paternity issues, jury to divvy asbestos proceeds," David Yates, Jan. 25, 2012

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