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An Ohio state court judge is allowing lawyers for Lorillard Tobacco Co. to depose counsel in two asbestos plaintiffs’ firms concerning allegedly inconsistent claims they filed relating to the same client’s mesothelioma. The case of mesothelioma victim Harry Kananian’s estate against Lorillard got hung up in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas when the defense told the court that there were conflicting claims in other litigation filed on his behalf. Kananian v. Lorillard Tobacco Co., No. 442750 (Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, Ct. C. P.). James F. Early, a principal of Early, Ludwick, Sweeney & Strauss of New Haven, Conn., one of the firms Lorillard will take discovery from, said his firm amended Kananian’s claims when later testimony indicated the original filings were inaccurate or incomplete. The firm also volunteered to return to the trusts any parts of awards that they determined to have been unearned. “You do the best you can with the information you have, especially when your clients are dying of mesothelioma,” Early said. Alan R. Brayton of Novato, Calif.-based Brayton Purcell, the other plaintiffs’ firm, did not return a call for comment. Both Early Ludwick and Brayton Purcell filed claims on behalf of Kananian and his family based on his military and occupational exposure to asbestos. Kananian received $700,000 for these claims in a California asbestos case filed by Brayton Purcell from settling nonbankrupt asbestos defendants and asbestos bankruptcy trusts. Lorillard was dismissed from that action. Kananian v. Asbestos defendants, No. 311064 (San Francisco Co., Calif., Super. Ct.). Each firm later amended its claims to reflect that Kananian was exposed to asbestos not as a shipyard laborer, as originally claimed, but as a World War II Army infantryman aboard troop ships. Then Brayton Purcell, in apparent contradiction to both firms’ earlier claims, blamed Kananian’s mesothelioma on the asbestos contained in the micronite filters of the Kent cigarettes he smoked from 1952 to 1956 when it refiled against Lorillard in Ohio. Brayton Purcell asserted that the earlier claims incorrectly attributed his disease to occupational exposure, Lorillard contends in court papers. Lorillard claims that Brayton Purcell’s “amendment” of its Johns-Manville asbestos claim conveniently strengthens its case against the cigarette maker, but contradicts earlier claims that both firms made-and upon which awards were paid-on Kananian’s behalf. Both Patrick M. McLaughlin of McLaughlin & McCaffrey in Cleveland, and Terrence J. Sexton, a partner in the Kansas City, Mo., headquarters of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, who represents Lorillard, declined to comment. Bruce Carter, a Fairfield, Ohio, solo practitioner and Kananian’s local counsel, also declined to comment. Judge Harry A. Hanna, who presides over the court’s asbestos docket, told counsel that he will hold a hearing to try to resolve the claim discrepancies after the defense receives answers to interrogatories and takes depositions from Early Ludwick and Brayton Purcell.

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