Opening statements began in Baltimore Circuit Court yesterday in an $18 million lawsuit Baltimore has filed against five firms that provided asbestos products that were used in city buildings.
Stanley J. Levy, an attorney for the city, asked the jury to ponder whether the firms acted responsibly when they installed the asbestos products.
The inhalation of tiny asbestos fibers has been linked to lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, a rare and always fatal cancer of the lining of the lung or abdomen.
Asbestos is fire resistant and it was widely used for thermal and acoustical insulation in buildings until its use was banned by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The suit covers asbestos products that were used in 33 city-owned buildings. "They [the firms] didn't do what they should have done," Mr. Levy said.
The defendants are United States Gypsum Co., Asbestos Spray Corp., Charles Pfizer and Co. Inc., Hampshire Industries Inc. and United States Mineral Co.
Lawyers for the defendants said the city knew of the potential danger posed by asbestos and still insisted that the asbestos-materials be installed.