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Amatex Corporation

Amatex Corporation was founded in the 1950s in Pennsylvania, and manufactured asbestos-containing textiles designed to withstand very high temperatures. Today the company still makes textiles for high-temperature environments, but now these materials are made with fiberglass and other non-asbestos substances. The use of asbestos for so many years exposed workers and others to its harmful fibers.

Because of the asbestos exposure, people who worked with and handled Amatex materials were put at risk for developing mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis, all deadly diseases. Because of the lawsuits over this exposure, Amatex had to file for bankruptcy, set up an asbestos trust, and reorganize in 1990. The trust fund is now inactive, but it provided many claimants with compensatory damages.

Company History

The original company that would become Amatex Corporation was founded in the 1950s and was at the time called the American Asbestos Textile Corporation. It was headquartered in Norristown, Pennsylvania, the current headquarters for Amatex. In addition to the facilities in Norristown, Amatex operated a manufacturing facility in Meredith, New Hampshire. Amatex purchased a textile mill there from Keasbey & Mattison, another textile manufacturer. The purchase was made in 1962 and Amatex made asbestos fabrics there for 20 years, until 1982 when it began bankruptcy proceedings.

Today, Amatex Corporation is still based in Norristown, but also has facilities in Laconia, New Hampshire. It now manufactures textiles with fiberglass to withstand high temperatures. Products include materials like vertex, aluminized fiberglass, special coated thermoglass, metallic wire, and silica. The company also makes tapes, ropes, sleevings, and gaskets with these materials, also designed to be used in high-temperature environments.

Amatex Asbestos Products

From its beginnings as the American Asbestos Textile Corporation, it was obvious that Amatex would be using asbestos to make fireproof and temperature-resistant textiles. The company no longer uses asbestos, but for decades it was the material of choice for these kinds of products. Asbestos was abundant and relatively cheap. It is a mineral that can be mined and that is naturally resistant to heat and fire, making it an ideal material for these products.

It was, of course, only ideal for heat-resistant textiles until it was realized just how harmful asbestos was to human health. Beginning in the 1950s, and through 1982, Amatex made a variety of textiles woven with asbestos fibers. These included cloths and fabrics that would be made into heat- and fire-resistant clothing and safety gear, cords and ropes, yarn, thread, wicks, tubing, and many other materials used in a variety of industries.

Asbestos Exposure

Exposure to asbestos is harmful because the fibers of this mineral can lodge in tissues in the body where they may remain for decades. Once there, the fibers can cause serious damage. Not everyone exposed will get sick, but those who do may end up with progressive, painful, and deadly diseases like mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer, as well as other types of cancer. People exposed to asbestos mostly inhale the fibers, which are tiny and light. They easily become airborne, but they can also settle as dust on surfaces. Workers around asbestos can end up inhaling or consuming the fibers or bringing them home on their clothing, putting family at risk of exposure as well.

Those who were put at the greatest risk of exposure to asbestos through Amatex products were the workers in Amatex factories. These workers handled asbestos directly in the making of textiles. Even the workers who were in the facilities but did not directly handle asbestos were at risk for exposure. Thousands of workers for other companies and in other industries who used Amatex products were also at risk for exposure. Textiles with asbestos can break down over time, causing fibers to come lose and to expose workers using them.

Asbestos Litigation

Asbestos-related illnesses take years to develop, so although Amatex began using asbestos in the 1950s, it did not start to receive asbestos lawsuits in great quantities until the 1970s. By 1982 the number of lawsuits was high enough and was costing the company enough that it had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and reorganize. The company only emerged from this reorganization in 1990. Overall, Amatex faced about 9,000 separate lawsuits from claimants demanding the company admit liability and provide compensatory damages.

One of these lawsuits came from a former worker in a shipyard, Ernest Cleveland. He used asbestos products in his work that came from a number of companies, including textiles from Amatex. Shipbuilding is one of the industries that used asbestos more than any other. It was used in materials that went into almost every component of a ship. In 1982 he filed a lawsuit because he had developed asbestosis, a painful and progressive scarring of lung tissue caused by asbestos exposure. Amatex settled with Cleveland, but other defendants refused to settle and went to trial. Ultimately Cleveland was awarded $1.5 million from those who took him all the way to trial.

Amatex Bankruptcy, Reorganization, and Asbestos Trust Fund

The Amatex Corporation faced thousands of lawsuits from the people who were exposed to asbestos because of their products. These people got sick from the exposure and claimed that Amatex was negligent for their mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other illnesses. Facing so many lawsuits and potential payouts, Amatex had no choice but to reorganize. The company began the process by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1982. It did not emerge from that reorganization until 1990, at which time it set up an asbestos trust fund with $16 million.

The trust fund was a requirement of bankruptcy protection to ensure that current and future claimants would be able to get compensation from the company, regardless of whether it emerged from bankruptcy or not. The Amatex Asbestos Disease Trust Fund is currently inactive. If you feel you have a claim against Amatex because of your own exposure to asbestos through their products, you may not be able to file it. Consult with a mesothelioma lawyer to find out what your options are in cases like this when a trust fund has become inactive.

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