The Dana Corporation has manufactured automotive parts for decades, but it also developed new products and acquired other parts companies. Dana used asbestos in many of its products, which resulted in worker exposure. Lawsuits related to exposure and asbestos illnesses eventually led to the company’s bankruptcy and reorganization.
In 1904, Clarence Spicer, an engineering student, patented the Spicer Universal Joint, later known as the u-joint. Spicer started his car parts manufacturing company around this useful invention. The company was headquartered in Plainfield, New Jersey.
Initially, the company was named Spicer Universal Joint Manufacturing Company. Later it was renamed Spicer Manufacturing Company.
The company made much more than the u-joint. Over the years, Spicer’s company sold products to car companies that included Olds Motor Works, Buick Motor Company, Kelly-Springfield, and American Motor Car Company.
In 1928, Spicer moved the business to Ohio. When lawyer Charles Dana invested in the company, the name changed to the Dana Corporation. The new company’s headquarters were established in Maumee, Ohio.
Dana Corp hit its stride after World War II and continued to find success for decades. Over the years, the company bought several smaller auto parts companies, including Victor Gasket Manufacturing Company and Perfect Circle Corporation.
After years of success, Dana started experiencing financial troubles as lawsuits over asbestos exposure piled up. Victims claimed parts the company made caused their asbestos-related illnesses.
By 2006, financial woes forced the company to reorganize under Chapter 11 protection. Unlike other companies that faced the same fate, Dana Corp. did not create an asbestos trust fund; however, it formed a trust fund only for former employees affected by asbestos.
Asbestos was once commonly used in the auto parts industry. This natural mineral was prized for its unique properties, including its resistance to heat and fire. Car body components also used asbestos for insulation, while high-friction parts, like brakes and clutches, included asbestos to prevent overheating and fire.
At Dana, asbestos was used heavily in brake components, such as linings, pads, drums, and disks. The company also used it in:
- Engine components
Several manufacturers used these components. They made it into vehicles produced all across the U.S.
The use of asbestos in Dana’s parts led to the exposure of thousands of people. Anyone who worked with or around asbestos faced potential exposure and resulting illness. Asbestos fibers can easily become detached. Once detached, these fibers are tiny enough to float through the air like dust.
Once these fibers are airborne, they can be inhaled or contaminate surfaces. When people inhale these fibers, they can become lodged in tissues. This causes damage that can lead to mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis.
Anyone who has been around asbestos-containing Dana car parts could have been exposed; however, those at greatest risk worked directly with such parts. This includes Dana’s factory workers and mechanics who disassembled, repaired, and replaced brakes and other parts on vehicles.
Dana’s Asbestos Litigation
In recent years, Dana faced a number of asbestos lawsuits. In 2006, the company had at least 70,000 pending lawsuits related to asbestos exposure. Those suits drove Dana into bankruptcy reorganization in 2006. The company emerged from bankruptcy in 2008.
It did not create an asbestos trust fund to compensate victims, a point contested by a victim advocate group called the Ad Hoc Committee of Asbestos Claimants. This group claimed Dana had not set aside enough money to compensate current and future victims of asbestos exposure.
The company did set aside funds, but not in the form of a trust. After bankruptcy reorganization, it set aside $240 million, saying its lawsuits were just 3% of its debts.
In one notable case against Dana, a pipefitter sought damages for his mesothelioma. This pipefitter died before the conclusion of the case, but his family continued it. A jury awarded them $5 million. Dana was found liable for a portion of the award because he worked with their asbestos-containing gaskets throughout his career.
In 2016, Enstar Group Limited acquired Dana for $91.5 million. Enstar is now responsible for all of Dana’s asbestos liabilities and handles all related claims.
Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association
Although Dana never created an asbestos trust fund to cover claims against the company, it did settle with United Auto Workers and United Steel Workers to create a fund for the company’s employees.
Called the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA), this trust fund was created to provide compensation for employee medical expenses for asbestos-related conditions. The fund includes $700 million in cash and $800 million in Dana Corp. stock.
If you worked for Dana, you could be eligible for funds through VEBA. If you did not work for Dana Corporation but believe your asbestos illness is related to the company’s products, you can still file a lawsuit. Dana expects to field claims for many years as people are diagnosed with medical conditions caused by asbestos.
You can rely on an asbestos or mesothelioma lawyer to help you with the process. They can help ensure you have the best possible chance of winning compensation for your illness or the loss of a loved one.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
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.