Armstrong World Industries
Armstrong World Industries is a company based in Pennsylvania and that has a long, 150-plus-year history of manufacturing flooring, ceiling materials, and cabinets. The company was founded in Pittsburgh in 1860 and began by manufacturing corks for wine bottles. This led to other cork products, including flooring and other construction materials.
Over the years the company used asbestos in many of its products. Workers in Armstrong facilities, construction workers who used their products and even people who lived in homes with these materials were put at risk of being exposed to harmful asbestos. As lawsuits accumulated in the early 2000s, as people were diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma, Armstrong faced bankruptcy. As a part of reorganization it started an asbestos trust fund to help compensate current and future claimants.
What is today known as Armstrong World Industries, a leading manufacturer of construction and home products, began as the Armstrong Cork Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The company was founded in 1860 by Thomas M. Armstrong and John D. Glass who carved cork bottle stoppers by hand. From these humble beginnings the company grew every decade. By 1901 the company had built a large factory, which is now home to historic lofts in Pittsburgh. By 1930 the company employed over 1,300 people.
Although Armstrong began making bottle corks, within just a few decades of its founding the company was making corkboard insulation, fiberboard, and other products. It had become, but 1890, the world’s largest cork company and had been renamed Armstrong World Industries. Eventually the company expanded its materials and products and was making ceiling board, linoleum flooring, vinyl flooring, carpeting, laminate flooring, ceramic tiles, and insulation. In the 1990s the company acquired Triangle Pacific Corp. and added hardwood floors and cabinets to its product line.
The growth of the company continued for decades and it achieved great success until the lawsuits over asbestos exposure started rolling in. In the late 1990s the company started to see more and more claims and this ultimately led to filing for bankruptcy in 2000. Today, Armstrong World Industries is successful once again, having recovered from reorganization and having set up an asbestos trust fund to provide for future claimants.
Asbestos Use in Products
Asbestos was used for decades by many companies that manufactured a variety of products from insulation to boilers to construction materials like those made by Armstrong. Asbestos was popular for a long period of time, before its serious health risks were known, because it was cheap, readily available, fire and heat resistant, and lightweight but strong. It could be added to materials to add strength, to insulate against heat, and to protect against fire.
Armstrong began using asbestos in the 1930s and continued making and distributing products containing asbestos into the 1970s. Many flooring and ceiling materials, as well as fiber board contained asbestos. It was used to strengthen these materials, to make them more durable and long-lasting, and to provide extra insulation.
Armstrong also made a spray-on insulation in the 1960s, although it never made it into final production. The workers who developed and tested the product made it almost entirely out of asbestos. They found that it produced too much dust in the air to be a usable product and developed instead an insulation material that contained just nine percent asbestos. This insulation was discontinued after a year for similar issues.
Many people were put at risk of being exposed to asbestos because of the products made by Armstrong that contained the mineral. Those who were most harmed or at the greatest risk of getting sick from asbestos were the workers in Armstrong facilities that worked directly with asbestos and the construction and related workers who installed Armstrong flooring, ceiling, and insulation products.
Especially dangerous was the spray-on insulation because it produced a large amount of dust. One of these was never put into production, but the workers who tested it were likely exposed to a lot of asbestos fibers from the dust. The spray-on insulation with less asbestos in it also produced dust and was produced and on the market for a year. Those workers who tested and made it, as well as those who installed the insulation in homes and buildings were likely to have been exposed and were put at risk for illnesses like mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
Litigation and Bankruptcy
Asbestos exposure can cause a person to become sick, but these illnesses most often don’t manifest until decades after the exposure occurred. This means that Armstrong started to see asbestos lawsuits after discontinuing use of asbestos in many of its products. Thousands of lawsuits started coming in beginning in the 1990s, and the costs of settling these would lead to the company’s bankruptcy and reorganization.
One of the lawsuits against Armstrong turned out to be an important precedent for asbestos lawsuits. An insulation worker named Raymond Miller filed a lawsuit against Armstrong and several other companies in 1991. He worked with Armstrong asbestos products in the late 1940s, and claimed that he was never warned about the risks of doing so. He was eventually diagnosed with asbestosis.
The case was important because it set a precedent in Colorado for the statute of limitations. Miller had pleural thickening years earlier than his diagnosis of asbestosis. The case determined that his pleural thickening did not trigger the statute of limitations on his asbestosis. If it had, he would not have been able to file a lawsuit over asbestosis and would not have won a settlement.
Armstrong Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust
Armstrong would ultimately face hundreds of thousands of asbestos claims and lawsuits and this would force the company to reorganize under bankruptcy. As part of the bankruptcy protection agreement the company had to start a trust fund. The Armstrong World Industries Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust was established and began accepting claims in 2007. It was funded with $400 million.
If you worked for Armstrong or with Armstrong products you may be able to file a successful claim for compensation through the trust fund. Filing is a lengthy process that requires showing proof of exposure through Armstrong’s products and proof of medical conditions related to that exposure. If you are hoping to get compensation from Armstrong, consider working with a lawyer to help you have the best chance of succeeding.
Page edited by Dave Foster
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