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An Ohio state court judge upbraided the Brayton Purcell law firm in Novato and one of its partners Thursday, finding that they lied to the court, submitted fraudulent asbestos claim forms and broke other rules. As a result, the judge said in a published ruling that they had forfeited pro hac vice privileges to practice law in the asbestos litigation hotbed of Ohio’s Cuyahoga County. Judge Harry Hanna’s ruling offers a rare glimpse behind the scenes of a heated discovery fight, one that portrays the plaintiff firm and partner Christopher Andreas as sloppy and deceitful in their representation of the estate of Harry Kananian, who died from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure. The decision won’t put an end to the underlying claims Kananian’s estate brought against Lorillard Tobacco, maker of Kent cigarettes. But it jeopardizes the ability of Andreas and the Brayton firm to practice in the Ohio county, which includes Cleveland; whether the ruling will sully their reputations elsewhere is unclear. Describing what he termed “a nine-month saga of frustration,” Hanna laid out more than a dozen allegations that lawyers for Lorillard Tobacco made against Andreas and the Brayton firm, siding each time with Lorillard. When lawyers for Lorillard moved to disqualify the California firm and its partner in November, they contended that Andreas and the Brayton firm had submitted inconsistent claims to asbestos trusts in order to hit up multiple defendants for Kananian’s exposure, then lied in court to cover their tracks. Andreas has continued to deny those allegations. After reviewing internal e-mails from the Brayton firm and other privileged documents, Hanna concluded that Andreas’ statements from a hearing last spring “were patently false and could only have been designed to deceive this court and Lorillard.” But Hanna said the improper conduct didn’t stop there. The judge concluded Andreas also encouraged an asbestos trust to resist a court subpoena, then withheld materials used to prepare bankruptcy claim forms that Hanna ordered released in discovery. The judge also criticized Andreas for showing up at a deposition last summer wearing at T-shirt that said, “Killer Smokes � Kent Cigarettes � 1952-1956 � Made by Lorillard Tobacco.” “If a lay witness had appeared so attired for a video deposition, the court would certainly have been offended � perhaps moved to censure the witness. For an officer of the court to show such lack of respect is shocking,” Hanna wrote. “The bitter irony of all this deception,” Hanna added, “is that it was directed at a relatively innocuous issue, i.e., when did Mr. Andreas become aware of the amendment [to one claim]? � He jeopardized his client’s case and his own reputation because he would not admit to a little bravado in the heat of the moment.” The Kananian case became a cause celebre for toxic tort defense lawyers after The Wall Street Journal and Forbes magazine reported on Lorillard’s allegations last year. Asked about what sanctions might follow Hanna’s ruling, Lorillard attorney Terrence Sexton, a partner at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, said he hadn’t offered suggestions in his motion. “We were narrowly focused on our case and what had happened in our case. The relief that we were seeking was focused on our case,” he said. As part of Thursday’s order, Hanna denied Lorillard’s request to dismiss the case, saying that Kananian’s family and its current counsel did nothing wrong. The case has been on hold since Bruce Carter, a Cincinnati solo, took over for the Brayton firm. Andreas’ lawyer, Mark Abelson, a partner at the San Francisco firm Campagnoli, Abelson & Campagnoli, said “it’s difficult to figure out what effect it will have on anything.” “In my opinion,” Abelson said, “this [is] a moot issue because we had filed a motion to withdraw, which had been granted by Judge Hanna. So he’s ruling on something that’s basically not in front of him.” Abelson and Andreas both declined to comment on the substance of Hanna’s order, citing their uncertainty of whether a gag order remained in place. But both said they expect to file an appeal. Even though there are more than 40,000 asbestos cases on the docket in the Cuyahoga county courts, according to one court official, Hanna’s ruling might not have much impact on the Brayton firm’s bottom line. “This is the only case that my office was involved in out there,” Andreas said.

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