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Babcock & Wilcox

Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises is a company that is currently headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina and that makes technologies and machinery associated with power generation. These include renewable energy systems, boiler cleaning systems, steam generation systems, and many more products. The company was first formed in the 1860s and made boilers.

Boilers and related products for power generation were long used with asbestos to provide insulation from heat and protection from fire. Over many decades Babcock & Wilcox was responsible for the asbestos exposure and resulting mesothelioma or similar illness in thousands of workers. Asbestos lawsuits filed against the company forced it into bankruptcy and reorganization beginning in 2000, along with the creation of an asbestos trust fund to settle current and future lawsuits.

Company History

Founders Stephen Wilcox and George Babcock came together in 1867 to form Babcock, Wilcox, and Company. They started the company to manufacture the water tube boiler, an invention of Wilcox, which he patented in 1856. In 1881 the Pearl Street Power Station in New York City became the first electrical station in the U.S., and it was powered by these boilers. By 1902, their boilers were powering the New York subway system.

Beginning in the early 1900s the company began to provide boilers for many government agencies and the military. Several U.S. Navy ships were powered by their boilers. Over the years, Babcock & Wilcox continued to provide the government and other institutions with boilers while also improving upon their original water tube design. Advances included components for powering nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.

Babcock & Wilcox also expanded their services and products, offering boiler cleaning services, coal plants, waste-to-energy plants, and emission control systems for coal plants. By 2000 the company was forced to reorganize under the protection of Chapter 11 bankruptcy because of a pile up of asbestos related claims and lawsuits. It emerged from bankruptcy in 2006 and became known and the Babcock & Wilcox Company.

Products Made with Asbestos

Babcock & Wilcox used asbestos for many years, not necessarily in the direct manufacture of their boilers and other products, but along with them. Some kind of material is needed to protect people and machinery from the high heat and potential fire risks of boilers and similar products. Several components in boilers and its accessories had asbestos used to insulate them and to protect against fire.

For Babcock & Wilcox the use of asbestos extended to its standard boilers, gauges, furnace boilers, coal pulverizers for coal plants, steam boiler parts, and insulating fire bricks. The company’s maritime boilers, used on ships, also had to have asbestos in and around them. Asbestos was used in a lot of industries, but the maritime industry may have used it most heavily. This is because fire is such a dangerous risk on ships out at sea. Many U.S. Naval veterans were likely exposed to asbestos, some of it from Babcock & Wilcox boilers.

Asbestos Exposure

Babcock & Wilcox products were used in wide range of industries. Any kind of factory, industrial workplace, or other type of job site that needed a boiler could have had one made by this company. Boilers create a lot of heat that has to be contained to protect the integrity of parts and machinery and also to protect people. Workers installing, maintaining, or repairing boilers were often at risk of being exposed to the insulating asbestos used with them.

In addition to Babcock & Wilcox employees and those workers who installed and worked on the boilers, many other workers were put at risk of being harmed by the asbestos used in and around their products. Pipefitters, shipbuilders and ship maintenance workers, insulators, millwrights, workers in shipyards, crews on submarines, plumbers, electricians, lathe operators, and many other kinds of workers may have been exposed to asbestos from this company’s products and were put at risk for becoming sick as a result.

Asbestos Lawsuits

Babcock & Wilcox first started seeing asbestos lawsuits in the late 1970s and early 1980s and these drove the eventual bankruptcy reorganization in 1982. By 2000 the number of lawsuits had climbed into the hundreds of thousands and the amount of claims demanded rose into the billions of dollars. As an example one of these claims, a pipefitter in the U.S. Navy was diagnosed with mesothelioma. The court awarded him nearly $3 million in compensation, to be paid by Babcock & Wilcox and other defendants. Another suit against the company also ended in an award, but this time to the family of a deceased Navy veteran who worked as a fireman striker and as a machinist.

Like many other companies that used asbestos Babcock & Wilcox has been accused of knowing that asbestos was harmful and failing to protect workers from it. A memo from 1978 was discovered that proved this was the case at Babcock & Wilcox. The memo stated that the company was aware that it was violating asbestos exposure limits set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The memo shows that officials at the company planned to investigate, but that they did not plan to warn workers of the potential risk. Evidence like this has made it easier for true victims of asbestos exposure to get the compensation they need and deserve after being put at risk without adequate warning.

Babcock & Wilcox Asbestos Trust Fund

The company took many years to reorganize under chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and to settle lawsuits. As part of protection Babcock & Wilcox was required to create a trust fund that would cover current and future asbestos claims. The trust was established and began accepting claims from victims in 2006.

The Babcock & Wilcox trust is facing scrutiny, investigation, and possible legal action against it. Attorneys general from several states have initiated action to investigate the trust and the asbestos trusts set up by several other companies over the possibility that they are not reimbursing these states for the expenditures made by Medicare and Medicaid. The states believe that these trust funds’ lawyers are abusing the trusts by paying out settlements without first reimbursing Medicare and Medicaid.

If you were affected by asbestos through Babcock & Wilcox, you can reach out to the trust fund to make a claim. You can file one of two different ways: with an expedited or an individual review. You will likely have to prove that your exposure came from Babcock & Wilcox, but also that your illness is related to that exposure and that you have serious symptoms from an asbestos-related condition. These processes for making claims through an asbestos trust fund can get complicated. To ensure you have the best chance of making a successful claim, be sure to work with a mesothelioma or asbestos lawyer.

Page edited by Dave Foster

Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.

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