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EaglePicher Industries, Inc.

EaglePicher Industries was a company that began in 1916 with the merger of two other companies, a lead miner and a paint manufacturer. Over many years the product lineup from EaglePicher expanded and ultimately included products, like insulation, that contained asbestos. The U.S. Military was a major customer and many of the victims of EaglePicher asbestos exposure were veterans.

The company faced thousands of lawsuits over mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses beginning in the 1980s. These cost EaglePicher a lot of money in settlements and forced two bankruptcies. The company finally emerged in 2009 and today is operating as EaglePicher Technologies, LLC, focusing on batteries and other power-related technologies. The company created a trust fund that is now handling asbestos claims from victims.

Company History

Today’s EaglePicher Technologies was first founded in 1916 by the merger of two separate companies, one that mined lead and another that manufactured paint, which contained lead. The paint company was called Eagle White Lead and the mining company was owned by Oliver Picher. Together the two companies became known as EaglePicher.

The company did not stick with just lead and paint, but quickly got into the development and manufacturing of batteries. The mining arm of the company was useful because batteries required metals and other materials from the earth. Beginning during World War II and extending long after the war, the U.S. Military was a primary customer for the batteries.

Over many decades, EaglePicher saw success with batteries, but also created numerous other products including those that contained asbestos. Insulation and cement were some of the products that the company made, and sold to the military, that later caused asbestos exposure and triggered a flood of lawsuits. The lawsuits began coming in by the 1980s and continued for many years.

EaglePicher stopped using asbestos in its products by the mid-1970s when federal regulations made it more difficult to use asbestos. However, the damage was already done and by 1991 the company was forced to file for bankruptcy. It reorganized and emerged in 1996 with a personal injury trust established to compensate asbestos victims. The company hit hard times again in 2005 and filed for another round of bankruptcy protection and reorganization. The company emerged again, this time as EaglePicher Technologies, LLC, in 2009. The trust is still active and accepting claims.

Asbestos Use

EaglePicher has mostly focused on batteries and other energy and power technologies, but throughout its history it also made and sold other products. These included insulation and cement, both of which contained asbestos for many years of production. Asbestos is a natural mineral with unique properties that made it a desirable additive for many materials, but especially construction materials. It insulates efficiently, and so it was commonly used in insulation and it adds strength to materials as a binder without adding much extra weight. This use made it a desirable component of cements. Some of the EaglePicher cement brands that contained asbestos were Super 66, Hylo, and One Cote.

EaglePicher Asbestos Exposure

Anyone who worked directly with or even just in the vicinity of the EaglePicher products that contained asbestos were put at risk of being exposed to the mineral. Asbestos is a fibrous material and microscopic fibers can easily break loose and contribute to dust in the air and on surfaces. Without adequate protection, people may inhale or consume the fibers and get sick as a result. Illnesses known to be caused by asbestos exposure include mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

Those people who may have been exposed through the cements and insulation made by EaglePicher include the company’s own workers. These people either worked directly with asbestos or they worked around it and could have inhaled fibers. Also at risk were any workers who used the products in other industries. Construction workers, insulators, drywall installers, painters, and anyone else who worked around the installation, repair, or replacement of the cement or insulation could have been exposed.

A special subset of workers who were exposed to asbestos because of EaglePicher includes U.S. Navy veterans. Asbestos materials were heavily used in ships, including Navy ships because they insulated well, prevented the spread of fire, and added strength without extra weight. Many men and women in the Navy were exposed to asbestos because of their work on ships and later faced diagnoses of lung cancer or mesothelioma.

Asbestos Lawsuits

Although EaglePicher stopped using asbestos in products in the 1970s, related illnesses take decades to manifest. The company started seeing lawsuits over asbestos exposure and illness by the late 1970s. One of the earliest lawsuits filed against the company came from a Navy sheet metal worker. He worked in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard from the 1940s through the 1970s and was exposed to asbestos insulation. He began an asbestos lawsuit in 1979 targeting several manufacturers, including EaglePicher. He died from mesothelioma before the case was complete, but his widow won a settlement in 1984.

Over the last several decades EaglePicher faced thousands of lawsuits related to asbestos illnesses, amounting to over $2 billion demanded by victims. This led to bankruptcy protection and reorganization in 1991 and again in 2005.

EaglePicher Asbestos Trust Fund

The first bankruptcy that EaglePicher went through led to the company’s reorganization and emergence in 1996. The reorganization was accompanied by the creation of a trust fund that would compensate claimants and victims of asbestos exposure. Begun in 1996 the EaglePicher Industries Personal Injury Settlement Trust was funded with $730 million. By 2008 it had paid out $525 million in claims.

EaglePicher’s woes were not yet over in 1996. The company continued to struggle and accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. Again the company sought the protection of Chapter 11 bankruptcy and reorganized, emerging as EaglePicher Technologies, LLC in 2009. The trust fund is still active and accepting claims as more people receive diagnoses of mesothelioma.

If you believe that your asbestos related illness can, at least in part, be traced to products made by EaglePicher, you can file a claim with the trust fund the company established in 1996. The process can be complicated and may require that you submit proof of your illness and symptoms, proof that you were exposed to asbestos through EaglePicher, and evidence that it was the exposure that made you sick. You can rely on a lawyer experienced in asbestos claims to help you maximize your chances of a successful claim.

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