By Laura Lippman
Evening Sun Staff


  June 8, 1990  Two asbestos manufacturers have been ordered by a Baltimore City jury to pay more than $11 million to 10 men who were exposed to the toxic substance at the Bethlehem Steel shipyard at Sparrows Point.
   The month-long trial, which ended yesterday in circuit court, is one of the last that will be tried in the city before next year's consolidation of cases, which has been ordered to overcome the huge backlog in asbestos litigation.
   The plaintiffs in this case included men who had worked as welders, machinists, crane operators, storerooms clerks and pipe fitters at Bethlehem Steel. One had worked there less than five years; the others had worked for 20-30 years.
   What tied their cases together, said Shepard Hoffman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, was their common work location and the fact that all contracted asbestosis, a progressive scarring of the lung tissue that makes it difficult to breathe.
   Attorneys for the two manufacturers, Celotex Corp. of Florida and the New York City-based Manville Corp. Asbestos Disease Compensation Fund, had challenged the diagnosis of asbestosis in six of the men. They also tried to establish that it was impossible to prove it was their clients' asbestos to which the men had been exposed.
   But a jury, after deliberating more than nine hours over two days, decided to award compensatory damages totaling $11,265,000. The awards to the individual men ranged from $360,000 to $2 million for four of the men.
   Philip Lohrey, one of the attorneys who represented Celotex, said he will appeal the case to the Court of Special Appeals, the state's intermediate appellate court. "We think we have substantial grounds to appeal, on the basis of insufficient evidence," he said.    The attorney for Manville could not be reached.
   Eight of the men were well enough to testify at the trial, Hoffman said, One, Stanley Bell, is on an oxygen machine and could not come to court. A second man, Hastings Campbell, also was too ill to testify, but his son, Lawrence, took the stand.
   Of the eight men who did testify, six still live in the Baltimore area; Harold Adams, William Beeks, Crocket Brewster, George Farmer, George Foster and Kenneth Perkins. Two others, Ronald Cox and Ned Staton, have retired to North Carolina.
   While most of the men were exposed to the substance for a 20-30 year period ranging from the 1940s to the 1970s, Perkins' exposure was limited to four or five years during World War II, Hoffman said. After leaving Bethlehem Steel, Perkins joined the Army and later worked for the Maryland National Guard, but he testified he was never exposed to asbestos again.