Judge settles paternity issues, jury to divvy asbestos proceeds
A Beaumont judge settled lingering paternity issues in an asbestos lawsuit Monday, clearing the way for a Jefferson County jury to immediately divvy up settlement proceeds among the divided plaintiffs.
Court records state that following the death of her husband Claude Franklin, Mary Ann Franklin joined an ongoing class-action suit first filed in Jefferson County District Court on June 4, 1998, against dozens of oil and chemical companies.
The class members allege companies such as Mobil Oil and DuPont negligently and maliciously exposed workers to asbestos when the companies knew asbestos dust and fibers created health hazards.
Court records show that Claude Franklin died of cancer on May 20, 1999. Mary Ann Franklin alleges her husband's death was a direct result of his asbestos exposure.
In 2010, she reached a settlement with Chevron USA, Unocal, Goodyear, PPG Industries, Owens-Illinois, Bridgestone and B&B Engineering & Supply.
However, last August two women claiming to be Claude Franklin's daughters, Carolyn Harris and Pamela Terry, intervened in the case, asserting they are entitled to the suit's settlement proceeds.
Mary Ann Franklin responded by claiming the interveners were not Claude's children, court papers say.
A hearing on the matter was held Jan. 23 in Judge Donald Floyd's 172nd District Court.
During the hearing, Harris testified that she was in Claude Franklin's will and identified as his daughter.
Harris also said she and Terry had a DNA test performed which proved they shared a biological parent.
Conversely, plaintiff's attorney Reginald McKamie argued the DNA test did not name Claude Franklin as the father, and only proved the two interveners are sisters.
Judge Floyd found in favor of the interveners, giving the green light for the case to be heard before a Jefferson County jury.
Jury selection began Jan. 24. Jurors will be tasked to divvy up the settlement proceeds among the family members.
Houston attorney Jason Payne represents the interveners
Case No. E159-183-s