The Houston Family Law Blog

Man Dies of Asbestos, Widow Gets Settlement, New Daughters Show Up

How does an asbestos lawsuit lead to paternity issues? It is not as far-fetched as you might think, reports the Southeast Texas Record.

Turns out that in 1998, after the death of her husband Claude Franklin, his widow, Mary Ann Franklin, joined in a class-action lawsuit against a number of oil and chemical companies.

The lawsuit alleged that companies such as Mobil Oil and DuPont exposed their workers to asbestos and that Claude Franklin died as a result of cancer in 1999, which was believed to be directly due to the asbestos.

Fast forward ten years later. Mary Ann Franklin received a settlement from Chevron USA, Unocal, Goodyear, PPG Industries, Owens-Illinois, Bridgestone, and B&B Engineering & Supply.

That was when things became familial.

Two women claiming to be Claude Franklin's daughters, Carolyn Harris and Pamela Terry, intervened in the case. They wanted part of the proceeds.

Now a whole set of hearings on Claude Franklin's paternity of Carolyn Harris and Pamela Terry are set to take place. Jury selection for the case starts on January 24. Mary Ann Franklin's side believes that the women can show that they are sisters, but not that they are Claude Franklin's daughters.

All of this goes to show the importance of getting paternity issues resolved. Typically, our focus is on encouraging women to get the paternity of their children sorted out so they may be able to receive child-support and have parenting support.

However, as the Claude Franklin paternity case shows, it is also important for fathers to work out their paternity, so that in the event that their financial circumstances suddenly change for the better, mysterious people don't show up claiming to be their progeny.

Under Texas paternity law, a child born to a man and woman who are not married has no legal father. There is a difference between a biological father and a legal father. When the child's parents complete an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) to establish legal fatherhood, this helps to secure the legal rights of both the child and the father.

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