Founded in the 1890s, Federal-Mogul Corporation has long supplied the automotive industry in Detroit with rubber, bearings, and eventually a variety of automotive parts. Federal-Mogul acquired companies that used asbestos, which led to asbestos lawsuits. The company restructured under bankruptcy protection and set up an asbestos trust fund in the early 2000s.
Federal-Mogul History and Asbestos
Federal Mogul’s history begins with the Muzzy-Lyon Company, founded by J. Howard Muzzy and Edward F. Lyon in 1899. It sold rubber and mill supplies.
- Muzzy-Lyon moved into metals with a subsidiary called Mogul Metal Company. Mogul manufactured bearings with die-casts. This innovative step made the process quicker and more efficient.
- In 1924, Mogul Metal Company merged with Federal Bearing and Bushing, creating Federal-Mogul Corporation. The company flourished during World War II when demand for metal bearings was high. After the war, the company continued to be successful, acquiring many other companies.
- Some of the acquisitions included National Motor Bearing Company, after which the name changed to Federal-Mogul Bower. After merging with Sterling Aluminum Products in 1965, the name changed back to Federal-Mogul Corporation.
- Federal-Mogul Arrowhead brand parts were used in the NASA Saturn and Space Shuttle programs. The company also received a patent for a new formula for curing rubber.
- While Federal-Mogul’s acquisitions helped it expand into new markets, it also introduced asbestos liabilities. Several companies Federal-Mogul acquired used asbestos to make their products. These included Vellumoid, Flexitallic, and Fel-Pro, which made gaskets; Ferodo, which made brakes; and Turner & Newell, which made asbestos construction materials and automotive parts.
- After thousands of asbestos-related lawsuits from workers who developed asbestos-related illnesses, Federal-Mogul reorganized under Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2001.
- In 2007, Federal-Mogul emerged from bankruptcy with multiple asbestos trust fund subsidiaries to compensate victims.
In 2018, Tenneco, an automotive parts company based in Lake Forest, IL, acquired Federal-Mogul, doubling the company’s size. It now consists of Federal-Mogul Powertrain and Federal-Mogul Motorparts.
How Did Federal-Mogul Use Asbestos?
Federal-Mogul might have avoided asbestos in its products and the resulting lawsuits if it were not for the businesses they purchased.
Fel-Pro, Turner & Newell, and other subsidiaries of Federal-Mogul made a variety of asbestos-containing products. Asbestos was a popular material in manufacturing due to its unique insulating and fireproofing characteristics.
Several Federal-Mogul subsidiaries manufactured automotive parts with asbestos, including gaskets, clutch components, and brakes. Because asbestos has a high resistance to heat, it was a component of high-friction parts, reducing the risk of overheating and subsequent failure.
In construction materials, asbestos was useful because it is a great insulator. It also adds strength to products without adding unnecessary weight, making it useful for products like concrete.
Workers at Risk of Asbestos Exposure Caused by Federal-Mogul
Asbestos consists of tiny fibers which can break off and float through the air as dust. Like dust, it also settles on surfaces and clothing. Once these tiny microscopic fibers are inhaled or consumed, they can become lodged in body tissues, causing damage over time.
Decades after exposure, tissue damage can lead to asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
Those who handled the mineral directly are at the greatest risk, yet anyone working near the mineral is also at risk. Employees of Federal Mogul’s subsidiaries who helped manufacture asbestos products were likely exposed to asbestos.
Workers for other companies that used these products were also at risk. Because Federal-Mogul sold so many different products, this could include:
- Auto factory workers
- Automotive mechanics
- Construction workers
- Shipyard workers
- Oil refinery workers
- Power plant workers
- Other industrial workers
Car hobbyists who did their own repairs, especially on brakes, could also have been exposed to asbestos from Federal-Mogul parts.
Asbestos Lawsuits Against Federal-Mogul
Most asbestos-related lawsuits against Federal-Mogul arose from its subsidiary Turner & Newell. Hundreds of thousands of people filed lawsuits over the company’s products and worker exposure.
When Federal-Mogul acquired Turner & Newell, it also set aside funds for asbestos claims, though the over $2 billion it set aside was not enough.
The numerous lawsuits and settlements over Turner & Newell and other subsidiaries eventually forced Federal-Mogul to reorganize.
The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2001. In 2007, it emerged and reorganized with a large asbestos trust fund and several sub-funds for its subsidiaries.
Federal-Mogul did manage to get out of liability for one major case involving twenty-two Texaco workers filed in 2001. These individuals were employed at a Texaco refinery from the 1940s through the 1970s.
While employed, they were exposed to asbestos. Part of their exposure came from gaskets made by a Federal-Mogul subsidiary, Flexitallic Gasket Company. The jury awarded the plaintiffs $35.2 million total; however, the jury assigned liability to the previous owners of Flexitallic, not Federal-Mogul.
Federal-Mogul Asbestos Trust Funds
As part of Federal Mogul’s bankruptcy protection deal, the company created a trust fund to help settle claims for asbestos exposure and resulting illness.
In 2007, the company created the Federal-Mogul U.S. Asbestos Personal Injury Trust. This trust has separate sub-funds for subsidiaries:
- Turner & Newall
- Federal Mogul Products
The largest of these, Turner & Newall was funded with $635 million. The Federal-Mogul trust’s current payment percentage is 5.9%, which ensures the fund will last long enough to compensate all claimants. The payment percentage was reduced in 2022.
Federal-Mogul transferred insurance policies to its asbestos trust as assets to help compensate victims. Insurance companies fought back against this in the courts.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals decided in favor of the trust in 2012. This was a big win for asbestos trusts, setting precedent for assigning insurance policies to trusts for victims.
How to Seek Asbestos Compensation
The Federal-Mogul trust funds are active and accepting claims. Federal-Mogul expects to field future claims because asbestos illnesses often take decades to manifest.
You may be eligible for compensation if you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease and can trace exposure to one of Federal Mogul’s subsidiaries. The best way to file a claim is with the help of an asbestos or mesothelioma lawyer.
These experts can determine where and how you were exposed to asbestos, the companies responsible, the trusts for which you are eligible, and other options for seeking compensation.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.