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Associated Press

CANTON, Ohio -- A lawyer for Ford Motor Co. believes exhuming Donald Adams from his grave will provide answers to resolve a legal dispute.

But Rita Adams doesn’t want to see her husband’s body removed from North Lawn Cemetery.

“I feel once you’re laid to rest, that’s it,” the Nimishillen Township widow told Stark County Probate Judge Dixilene Park.

Ford wants Adams’ body exhumed to perform an autopsy to see if he actually died because of asbestosis, a lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos.

Adams died in March 1998 at age 70. Doctors ruled respiratory failure due to pulmonary fibrosis as the cause of death. They also cited suspected lung cancer and other lung disease.

Ford is questioning an Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation decision to give Adams’ widow $14,066 per year -- paid to her at a rate of $270.50 weekly -- as compensation for her husband’s death.

An appeal of the workers’ compensation case is pending in Stark County Common Pleas Court. The case can’t be resolved until Park rules on the request to exhume Adams’ body.

Adams worked as a tool-and-die maker at Ford’s Canton Forge Plant from 1952 until 1986. Co-workers say Adams routinely came in contact with asbestos at his job.

“It was pretty darn tough because he suffered for three years,” Rita Adams said of her husband’s death. She filed a workers’ compensation claim in 2000. The agency honored her claim and began making weekly payments.

Robert C. Meyer, a lawyer with Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs, which is representing Ford, said exhuming Adams’ body would end questions about what caused his death. If tests verify that Adams died from asbestosis, it’s very likely Ford’s benefit appeal would be dropped.

But doctors providing testimony in the case said they don’t believe any lung tissue will remain from Adams’ body, said Anthony Ania, lawyer for Rita Adams. If there will be nothing to test, the body shouldn’t be exhumed, he said.
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