Crown Cork and Seal, known today as Crown Holdings, did not make any products with asbestos. It assumed liability for asbestos-related illnesses through the acquisition of Mundet Cork in the 1960s. Mundet used asbestos in some of its products, leading to lawsuits against Crown.
Crown Cork and Seal Company History and Asbestos
Crown Holdings got its start in 1892 with the invention of a new method of capping bottles by William Painter. He started his new company, Crown Cork and Seal, in Baltimore.
- In 1898, Painter developed a foot-operated device that allowed manufacturers to easily and quickly apply his caps to bottles. Crown Cork and Seal Company revolutionized beverage packaging, simplifying the bottling process and making it more cost-effective.
- These innovations proved to be a success, and the company grew rapidly. By 1906, Crown Cork and Seal had manufacturing facilities in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, and Brazil.
- The company also expanded into New York City in 1927 after the company merged with New Process Cork Company. By the 1930s, Crown products capped about half of the world’s bottles.
- In 1936, Crown added tin cans to its list of products after acquiring the Acme Can Company of Philadelphia.
- Crown helped with the war effort during World War II. It developed and manufactured gas mask canisters for troops, receiving a government citation.
- In 1963, Crown acquired Mundet Cork because it produced bottle caps. Unfortunately, Mundet also made construction materials that contained asbestos. Although it only owned Mundet for a short period, the acquisition ultimately cost Crown hundreds of millions of dollars in asbestos lawsuits.
Today the company is called Crown Holdings, Inc. It manufactures packaging with paper, plastic, metals, and other materials and used for food and beverages, beauty, and luxury products. One of the leading packaging companies globally, Crown operates over 100 plants in more than forty countries.
How Was Crown Associated with Asbestos?
Crown Cork and Seal never used asbestos in its products. Liability came from a minor acquisition the company made in 1963.
Crown bought Mundet, a company headquartered in North Bergen, New Jersey. Mundet made both cork bottle caps and construction materials that contained asbestos.
Crown sold the asbestos part of the business just ninety-three days after acquiring it but could not dodge liability for lawsuits.
Mundet Cork Asbestos Products
Although Crown owned the asbestos division of Mundet for only three months, it has paid the price. The company has faced millions of dollars in settlement fees due to Mundet’s products and the illnesses caused by exposure to the asbestos they contained.
Mundet products that contained asbestos include:
- Pipe covering
- Block insulation
- Wool finishing cement
- Wool insulating cement
- Magnesia asbestos insulation
Asbestos was long used in construction products like these because it is a lightweight material that adds strength and durability. It is also inexpensive, readily available, and insulates well.
Who Was at Risk of Asbestos Exposure from Mundet Products?
Cork Crown and Seal faced liability for asbestos exposure caused by Mundet products. The manufacturing plants run by Mundet employed many who worked directly with asbestos.
Even employees who did not handle asbestos were at risk of exposure. Because asbestos fibers can come loose and contaminate air, anyone in the vicinity of this mineral could be affected. Once inhaled, sharp, microscopic fibers become lodged in tissues, causing damage over time.
In addition to people who worked directly for Mundet, thousands more that worked with the company’s products were affected:
- Construction workers
- Insulation installers
- Cement contractors
- Demolition workers
Asbestos Lawsuits Against Crown Cork and Seal
Years after it acquired Mundet, a court found Crown Cork and Seal liable for asbestos exposure and resulting illnesses. Crown attempted to argue it did not have successor liability because it only purchased assets related to cork bottle caps.
Legally, a company has liability when it goes beyond buying assets, especially when it merges with another company. Once an Ohio judge decided the Crown had liability, a door opened for thousands of lawsuits.
Since then, Crown has paid more than $700 million to Mundet victims through asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits. These are some examples of asbestos lawsuits against Crown:
- In Louisiana, an iron and ship fitter received a $12 million award. This fitter worked in a shipyard, and his work included using asbestos cement pipes, some with pipe insulation made by Mundet. The jury found Crown was 33% liable for the worker’s mesothelioma. This required the company to pay nearly $4 million.
- William Saller developed and died from mesothelioma after working for years in the vicinity of Mundet’s asbestos insulation. After he died, Saller’s family received a jury award of $1.5 million and $3.6 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
- In 2018, Walter Shickles filed a lawsuit against Crown Cork and Seal and other companies after developing lung cancer. Shickles claimed in the filing that he worked around the defendants’ asbestos products between 1961 and 2010. He requested a trial by jury to seek damages.
Crown Holdings has emerged from its troubled past with Mundet. The company has been successful despite the settlements it has had to pay.
A Pennsylvania court dismissed several pending asbestos cases cases against Crown because of a state law limiting asbestos liability for a successor company. Crown was liable only up to the value of Mundet at the time it acquired that company.
What to Do if You Worked with Mundet Asbestos Products
Crown may be liable if you can connect your asbestos exposure and resulting illness to Mundet products. To file a lawsuit and seek compensation, contact an experienced mesothelioma lawyer. The right lawyer will review your case for free.
If they believe you have a case, they can guide you through the filing process and give you the best chance of recovering financial damages for you or your family.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Written by Mary Ellen Ellis
Mary Ellen Ellis has been the head writer for Mesothelioma.net since 2016. With hundreds of mesothelioma and asbestos articles to her credit, she is one of the most experienced writers on these topics. Her degrees and background in science and education help her explain complicated medical topics for a wider audience. Mary Ellen takes pride in providing her readers with the critical information they need following a diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness.
Page Edited by Patient Advocate 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.