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Controversial Measures Pulled From Adoption Bill Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives have decided to pull controversial measures from an otherwise non-controversial bill that would strengthen the state’s existing ban on same-sex marriages and prohibit so-called “domestic partner” benefits for state workers, regardless of sexual orientation. Rep. Jerry Birmelin, R-Wayne, had introduced them as amendments to House Bill 345, which would require the state to reimburse county children and youth agencies for the full cost of a program designed to help disabled children and other hard-to-place children find adoptive homes. The adoption bill passed 196-0, and now goes to the state Senate. Birmelin introduced more than 50 amendments to the bill, including ones that would make same-sex marriage, taxpayer-funded benefits to non-married state employees and same-sex couple adoptions all illegal in Pennsylvania. The amendments sparked a response from American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Bar Association and several of Birmelin’s House colleagues, who called them “anti-gay” and “hateful.” Many Republicans also expressed concern that the amendments would put a halt to a bill that had overwhelming bipartisan support. Rep. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, who last week called the amendments gratuitously “hateful,” said that he believes his Republican counterparts asked Birmelin to pull them off the bill because voting on the topic could cause problems for incumbents during next month’s primary election. He said Birmelin promised on the floor of the House that he would reintroduce the amendments, something Leach expects to take place by May as an attachment to another piece of legislation. Rep. Melissa Murphy Weber, R-Montgomery, who like Leach is an attorney, said that she spoke out against the amendments during caucus discussions, saying that they would have killed a necessary and popular bill. Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Gabriel L.I. Bevilacqua sent letters to each member of the House, expressing his concern over the amendments, while the association’s lobbyist spelled out its opposition to key legislators. Bevilacqua said he believes the House saved itself from embarrassment by choosing not to debate the issues of domestic partnership benefits and same-sex adoption. The amendments would have prohibited any law firm that provides domestic partnership benefits from conducting business with the state government. – Jeff Blumenthal/The Associated Press Jury awards $2.5 million verdict in asbestos case A Philadelphia jury has awarded $2.5 million in an asbestos case against two defendants. However, defendant Georgia Pacific had settled for an undisclosed sum prior to trial, leaving defendant John Crane Inc. responsible for the remaining 50 percent of the eight-member jury’s verdict, according to plaintiff’s attorney Edward M. Nass of Howard Brenner & Nass. In Thompson v. John Crane, the family of plaintiff Joseph Thompson alleged that he had developed non-mesothelioma lung cancer after handling asbestos-containing products over the course of his 29 years as a painter in Temple University’s maintenance department, Nass said. Thompson died of his illness in May 2000 at age 66. Thompson alleged that John Crane had manufactured asbestos-containing valve packaging used in the steamfitters that he worked around, according to the complaint filed by his estate. According to the jury’s verdict sheet, occupational exposure to asbestos was a factual cause in Thompson’s lung cancer and his estate was awarded $1.5 million. The jury further concluded that Thompson’s widow had suffered loss of consortium due to his death, and awarded her $1 million in damages. Nass noted that the case was “particularly challenging” because Thompson had smoked anywhere from one to three packs of cigarettes a day for roughly four decades. He presented expert medical testimony that Thompson’s lung cancer was caused by both his smoking and his asbestos exposure. Nass filed for $128,000 in delay damages. Nass said that the jury deliberated for five hours after the damages phase of the trial and then for one hour following the liability phase. The trial, which also included three other grouped asbestos cases brought by clients of Nass, was presided over by Common Pleas Judge James Murray Lynn. The verdict in Thompson came eight days after the group trial began. The day before the Thompson verdict, a second asbestos plaintiff, who was part of the group represented by Nass, was awarded $900,000 by the same jury following just under four hours of damages phase deliberation. Sears, the defendant in that action, settled before the case could move to its liability phase. – Asher Hawkins Stroke Victim gets $2.5 Million Award in Arbitration A 79-year-old Upper Darby woman who suffered a debilitating stroke 10 days after being released from a hospital where the plaintiff alleged she was inadequately treated by a doctor has received a $2.5 million award. Arbitrator Herb Kolsby of Kolsby Gordon Robin Shore & Bezar handed down the binding decision in New v. Centrone late Friday afternoon after hearing one day of testimony and arguments. Domenick DiCicco of Edelstein Martin & Nelson represented the plaintiff, Elizabeth New, while Kathleen Daily Mock of Mylotte David & Fitzpatrick represented the defendant, Dr. Robert Centrone of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Upper Darby. DiCicco said the case was sent to alternative dispute resolution after originally being assigned to Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Jacqueline Allen. The hospital and another doctor were released as defendants before the arbitration. DiCicco said that no settlement offer was made by the defense and that the award was for pain and suffering and lifetime health care costs. New was admitted to the hospital on Jan. 18, 1999, after collapsing at her home and was started on regular doses of aspirin and discharged two days later after a series of tests was performed, according to court papers. The plaintiff claimed in court papers that Centrone did not read a carotid Doppler study of the plaintiff prior to her release from the hospital. As a result of this failure, according to plaintiff’s court papers, New “was denied treatment options which could have prevented her stroke and as a result, she is now permanently disabled, requiring total care.” The test results revealed bilateral plaque and reduced blood flow in the entire left carotid system, with a large amount of shadowing plaque obscuring a portion of the left internal carotid artery, according to court papers. The plaintiff stated in court papers that Centrone did not prescribe aspirin as part of her post-release treatment. Neurologist Dr. John Townsend, an expert for the plaintiff, said in court papers that the “failure to place Mrs. New on aspirin upon discharge increased her risk of suffering a stroke by 25 percent.” Mock could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon. Both sides presented expert testimony via written reports. DiCicco said his experts included Dr. Mark Graham, an internal medicine specialist at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia; Townsend of Wilmington, Del.; and life planner Lorraine Buchanan of Independent Allied Health Consultants in Blue Bell. DiCicco said that defense expert reports were submitted by Dr. Bruce Silva, a Wynnewood-based internal medicine specialist, vascular surgeon Keith Calligral and life planner Barbara Leonard of Vocational Rehabilitation Inc. of Philadelphia. – Jeff Blumenthal

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