Flexitallic Group is a global company with headquarters in both the U.S. and the UK. The company has a huge part of the industrial gasket market, particularly in the oil industry. Things have not always been smooth for Flexitallic, though. For many years, the company’s gaskets were made with asbestos to help reduce overheating from friction and to insulate.
Asbestos in Flexitallic products exposed many workers, both Flexitallic employees and those who used their products in other industries, to this harmful mineral. Some were later diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis and became very sick. Thousands of lawsuits from these victims overwhelmed Federal Mogul, the company that bought Flexitallic in the 1990s, resulting in bankruptcy and the creation of an asbestos trust fund.
The Flexitallic brand’s history traces back to the mid-1800s in England. From its start, the company made gaskets. In the early 1900s it moved to the U.S., with headquarters in Camden, New Jersey. Flexitallic was successful operating from Camden, especially after inventing the first spiral-wound gasket for industrial use. Until the 1940s no other company made a product like it. Flexitallic also developed and made a other types of gaskets and sold them throughout the country and overseas.
In 1963 investors from Connecticut bought the company, incorporating it as the Flexitallic Gasket Company, Inc. By 1970 Flexitallic had been sold to Turner & Newell, a British asbestos and manufacturing company. Turner & Newell moved the company back to the U.S., to Delaware, and it was renamed Flexitallic, Inc. The name changed once again, to Gasket Holdings, Inc., before the company was sold to Dan-Loc Bolt and Gasket and got its current name, the Flexitallic Group, based in Houston, Texas.
Federal Mogul Corporation, a large manufacturer based in Southfield, Michigan bought the Flexitallic Group in 1998. Federal Mogul knew it was taking on asbestos liability because Flexitallic had used the mineral for so many years in its gaskets. Even so, the company couldn’t handle all its asbestos lawsuits and settlements, from Flexitallic and other acquisitions it had made over the years. Federal Mogul was forced to reorganize under bankruptcy protection and form an asbestos trust fund.
Asbestos Use by Flexitallic
Flexitallic is known for its variety of industrial gaskets and sealing materials, especially the spiral wound gasket it invented and made for decades before any other company could compete. Gaskets were often made with sheet packing that contained asbestos. Flexitallic was not alone in using asbestos in its gaskets and other seals, but it was a major manufacturer of these products, distributing them to a number of other companies and industrial workplaces.
Asbestos was desirable as a material in the pack sheeting used in gaskets because of its unique qualities. It resists fire and high temperatures, so using asbestos in gaskets and seals helped to insulate and prevent heat from leaking. Asbestos also added strength to materials, helping make gaskets more durable, long-lasting and resistant to erosion or chemical reactions. Finally, asbestos was inexpensive and readily available. The spiral wound gasket contained some of the highest levels of asbestos and caused many liability cases against Flexitallic.
Flexitallic gaskets put many people at risk of asbestos exposure. Workers who made the gaskets in Flexitallic facilities, and even the people who worked there but did not handle the material directly, faced those risks. They were likely to have inhaled the microscopic fibers that came loose from the asbestos, putting them at risk of developing serious illnesses later in life: lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis, all of which arise from damage to the internal organs by those fibers.
Thousands of other workers around the world did jobs in industries using Flexitallic gaskets. Workers in oil refineries, for example, installed, maintained and repaired gaskets. Every time these workers handled the gaskets, they risked exposure to the fibers. Workers in refineries, boiler workers, pipefitters, plumbers, and others could have been at risk because of Flexitallic gaskets.
The company has been sued many times over the asbestos its workers were exposed to. Victims of exposure and illness claimed Flexitallic was liable and should pay settlements. At first, Turner & Newell faced all the lawsuits, but when that company couldn’t cover them all, Federal Mogul stepped in, bought Flexitallic, and took on all the asbestos liabilities.
Federal Mogul was also finally overwhelmed by the number of lawsuits and the extent of expected settlements. The company was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and to reorganize beginning in 2001. Federal Mogul crumbled under the weight of lawsuits from several acquired companies, but Flexitallic’s accounted for the greatest number, at over 150,000.
Asbestos Trust Fund
As part of its reorganization under bankruptcy protection, Federal Mogul created an asbestos trust fund to cover the settlements and compensation awards for ongoing claims as well as any future claims over coming decades. Federal Mogul is a huge company with many asbestos liabilities and its trust fund included several subfunds. The Federal Mogul U.S. Asbestos Personal Injury Trust, Turner & Newell Subfund covers Flexitallic claims. It was established in 2007 and is still active.
Anyone who now can trace back asbestos exposure to Flexitallic gaskets can make a claim with the appropriate Federal Mogul trust fund. If you are sick because of asbestos and you feel certain that Flexitallic played a role in your illness, let an asbestos lawyer help you go through the process of making a claim and winning compensation.
Page edited by Dave Foster
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