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Asbestos verdict is $40 million

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A Baltimore Circuit jury has awarded $40 million in a lawsuit involving five asbestos victims, including a woman who developed cancer after washing her father's asbestos-covered clothing for a number of years.

The verdict came after a monthlong trial, in which jurors heard how three producers of asbestos products, Harbison-Walker Refractories, A.P. Green Industries Inc. and Armstrong Contracting and Supply, knew about the dangers of asbestos but did not do enough to protect workers.

"This was a preventable wrong done to hard-working, decent people," Peter G. Angelos said in a statement. The Angelos law firm represented the victims, three of whom died before the lawsuit ended.

The companies named in the lawsuit used asbestos to make pipe covering, cement block used to insulate boilers and insulating cement. Harbison-Walker also made bricks with asbestos strips in them.

The six jurors awarded the plaintiffs and their families amounts ranging from $3.5 million to $15 million to cover medical and funeral bills, and pain and suffering.

Harbison-Walker, based in Pittsburgh, was found liable in all five cases, the jury found Wednesday. AC & S, based in Lancaster, Pa., and A.P. Green, based in St. Louis, settled with the other plaintiffs, but were found liable in the case of Diane L. Lester, 50, of Stevensville.

Lester said yesterday she washed her father's clothes from the time she was 14 to 20, shaking them out before cleaning them, which caused her to breathe in asbestos fibers. Her father, Wandell Townsend, worked as a pipefitter and had lung cancer.

Lester has had one lung removed and undergone various other surgeries in connection with cancer, said Hirsh Goldberg, a spokesman for the Angelos law firm.

Two of the victims, Charles Cargile and Leroy Lane, also worked as pipefitters at Bethlehem Steel and elsewhere around Baltimore. Both men died in the late 1990s of cancer; Cargile was in his 80s; Lane was 65.

Antonio Colella, 73, a bricklayer all his working life, developed cancer from Harbison-Walker's asbestos-laced bricks, and now must breathe oxygen from a tank 24 hours a day.

Colella emigrated to Baltimore from Italy at the age of 20. He retired to Florida.

The fifth victim was Charles Habig, a national union leader for the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters and a political activist for John F. Kennedy. Habig, a pipefitter who worked in West Virginia but had lived in Southern Maryland, died of cancer in 1999, at the age of 73.

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