Flexitallic Group is a global company that makes industrial gaskets, especially for the oil industry. For many years, the company made its gaskets with asbestos and was eventually acquired by Federal-Mogul. That company faced thousands of lawsuits over asbestos exposure and ultimately reorganized and set up an asbestos trust fund.
Flexitallic History and Asbestos
The Flexitallic brand can trace its history to mid-1800s Europe and its founder Henry Bohmer. The company manufactured gaskets from the very beginning.
- In 1912, Flexitallic moved to the United States, placing its headquarters in Camden, New Jersey. Bohner focused on innovations in gasket design.
- Flexitallic experienced success in the US market after introducing the first spiral-wound gasket for industrial use in 1912. Until the 1940s, no other company produced a similar product. Flexitallic also manufactured other gaskets, selling them to several countries.
- Flexitallic supplied the U.S. Navy with gaskets, especially during World War II. They were vital for reducing steam loss that would cause ships to lose power.
- In 1962, investors from Connecticut purchased the company, incorporating it as the Flexitallic Gasket Company, Inc. By 1970, Flexitallic had been sold to Turner & Newall, a British asbestos and construction materials manufacturing company.
- Turner & Newall moved the company back to the United States, renaming it Flexitallic, Inc. Eventually, the company’s name changed again to Gasket Holdings, Inc. Later, Dan-Loc Bolt and Gasket bought the company. Currently, the company is known as the Flexitallic Group and is based in Houston, Texas.
- Over the decades, Flexitallic continued to innovate gasket design, materials, and manufacturing. In the 1970s, Flexitallic engineers created energy-saving gaskets for use on ships that saved the U.S. Navy millions of dollars.
- By the late 1990s Turner & Newall faced thousands of asbestos lawsuits. Federal-Mogul purchased it and took on asbestos liabilities, including those associated with Flexitallic.
How Did Flexitallic Use Asbestos?
Gaskets create a tight seal between machinery or pipe components used in most industries. Most makers of gaskets used asbestos in their products for decades. Asbestos insulated gaskets and reduced heat losses.
Flexitallic is known for its industrial gaskets and sealing materials, especially its patented spiral wound gasket. Flexitallic used asbestos in its gaskets until the early 1990s.
Flexitallic distributed asbestos gaskets to many other companies and a wide range of industrial workplaces.
Asbestos also added strength to materials, making gaskets more durable and resistant to erosion. Finally, asbestos was inexpensive and readily available. The spiral wound gasket contained some of the highest levels of asbestos, resulting in many liability cases filed against Flexitallic.
Who Was at Risk for Asbestos Exposure from Flexitallic?
Flexitallic gaskets put many people at risk of asbestos exposure. Workers who made the gaskets in Flexitallic facilities and those who did not handle the material directly faced those risks.
These employees were in danger of inhaling microscopic asbestos fibers. Inhaling these airborne fibers put them at risk of developing serious illnesses later in life, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
Thousands of workers around the world worked in industries using Flexitallic gaskets. Every time workers handled the gaskets during installation, maintenance work, or repairs, they risked exposure to asbestos fibers.
Some of the many occupations at risk for exposure to asbestos from Flexitallic gaskets include:
- Oil refinery workers
- Power plant workers
- Shipyard workers
- U.S. Navy veterans
Also at risk for Flexitallic asbestos exposure were family members of these workers. Before they knew the risks, many workers brought asbestos fibers home on their clothing, exposing others in the household. This is known as secondary or secondhand asbestos exposure.
Asbestos Lawsuits Against Flexitallic
Flexitallic has been sued many times because of its asbestos use. Victims of exposure and illness claimed Flexitallic was liable and should pay settlements.
At first, Turner & Newall faced all the lawsuits; however, Federal-Mogul stepped in when that company could not cover them all. When this company purchased Flexitallic, it became responsible for the asbestos liabilities and put up over $2 billion to cover them.
These are just some examples of asbestos lawsuits that involved Flexitallic products:
- U.S. Navy veteran Earlon Nunez worked in boiler rooms on ships during his Navy career. He developed and died from mesothelioma at only 49 years old. A jury awarded his widow $1.2 million in a lawsuit. The jury assigned 10% of the liability to Felxitallic for the gaskets Nunez changed out while in the Navy.
- Another veteran, Calvin R. Lane, used Flexitallic gaskets as a boiler tender on navy ships. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma and sued Gasket Holdings (a previous name for Flexitallic). A jury in California awarded Lane $4.2 million.
- In 2001, a jury awarded $35.2 million to 22 oil refinery workers with asbestosis. They worked at the Texaco Refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, where they handled Flexitallic gaskets and asbestos products made by other companies. Each plaintiff was awarded approximately $1.6 million in damages.
Eventually, Federal-Mogul was also overwhelmed by the extent of expected settlements. In 2001, the company was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Federal-Mogul struggled with the expense of lawsuits from several acquired companies. Flexitallic’s lawsuits accounted for the greatest number, at over 150,000.
Asbestos Trust Fund for Flexitallic Claimants
As part of its reorganization, Federal-Mogul created an asbestos trust fund to cover ongoing and future claims. Tenneco now owns Federal-Mogul, but the trust is responsible for compensating victims.
The Federal-Mogul US Asbestos Personal Injury Trust, Turner & Newall Subfund covers Flexitallic claims. This subfund was established in 2007 and is still active.
The payment percentage was reduced to 5.9% in 2022. Trust funds administrators set payment percentages to ensure enough money remains in the fund for future claimants.
What to Do if You Were Exposed to Flexitallic Asbestos Gaskets
If you can trace asbestos exposure to Flexitallic gaskets, you may be eligible to make a claim with the appropriate Federal-Mogul trust fund. The process can be confusing, so rely on an experienced mesothelioma lawyer to give you a better chance of a successful claim.
An asbestos law firm can also review your case for free and help you determine all the companies liable for your exposure. You could be eligible for other trust funds claims or to file a lawsuit.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.