Ingersoll Rand was formed in 1905 from the merger of two older and competing companies that both made drills. The company is incorporated in Dublin, Ireland, but has its U.S. headquarters in Davidson, North Carolina. Today the company makes a variety of products including air conditioner units, refrigerated trucking materials and products, drills and tools, golf carts, and more.
While today Ingersoll Rand produces materials and products without the use of asbestos, this was not always the case. At one time, like many other companies in a variety of industries, Ingersoll Rand used materials and components that contained asbestos. These mostly came from third parties, but because they were used in Ingersoll Rand products, the company was later liable for illness in people who were exposed to asbestos because of the use of this mineral. The company has been able to handle all asbestos lawsuits so far, without needing bankruptcy protection.
About Ingersoll Rand
The modern Ingersoll Rand is a large, international company with North American headquarters in North Carolina. Other headquarters are in Dublin in Ireland, Belgium, and Shanghai in China. The company states that it is in the business of improving quality of life by creating better environments. It aims to do this through selling products that protect perishable foods, enhance air in the home, and make industrial operations more efficient. Among the many brands under the Ingersoll Rand umbrella are Trane, American Standard, Thermo King, Club Car, Nexia, GHH Rand, and Ingersoll Rand tools.
The history of Ingersoll Rand dates back to the 1870s with the invention and patenting of Simon Ingersoll’s rock drill powered by steam. He used that invention to found his company, the Ingersoll Rock Drill Company, in 1871. The Rand and Waring Drill and Compressor Company was founded in 1872, eventually changing its name to the Rand Drill Company. Ingersoll then merged with Sergeant Drill Company to become Ingersoll-Sergeant Drill Company.
Ingersoll-Sergeant drills were used to begin digging the Panama Canal in 1904, while around the same time Rand was inventing and making portable compressors. In 1905 the two companies, competitors in making and selling drills, came together to form the Ingersoll-Rand Company. The new company continued to develop better drills, but also expanded its reach by making other products and acquiring smaller companies. These new ventures included engineering, locomotive engines, jackhammer drills, air-powered rock drills, boiler compressors and other components, centrifugal pumps, and much more.
With all of these acquisitions, including later ones like the 2008 acquisition of HVAC company Trane, came expansion and success, but also risk and liability. Many of the parts, products, and companies that Ingersoll Rand got involved with contained or used asbestos at some point in time. When it took on these companies, it also took on its liabilities and lawsuits over mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos illnesses in former employees and other workers.
Asbestos in Products
Ingersoll Rand did not actually produce any products with asbestos. However, they did make many products using components from third party companies that did use asbestos. They also acquired companies, like Trane, that used asbestos in parts and products, even if it was well in the past. Because the illnesses caused by asbestos develop over many decades, the full extent of the liability taken on with these new companies was not immediately known.
The types of products sold by Ingersoll Rand that were most likely to contain asbestos were gaskets and seals, compressors, HVAC equipment, pumps, and any parts that would be used in a high temperature or high friction environment. These parts and components were often made with asbestos before the 1970s because this natural material efficiently resists heat and fire and adds strength and durability to materials, especially those that will be exposed to heat and friction.
Exposure to asbestos is potentially very harmful. This is a natural mineral that companies like Ingersoll Rand used for its unique properties of heat and fire resistance, among others. However, the tiny fibers of which the mineral is made can easily flake off and become airborne, become part of the dust, or collect on surfaces where it is being used. These tiny particles can then be inhaled or ingested by anyone who is around it. Once in the body the fibers cause damage over many years and in some people cause devastating illnesses like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.
The people who worked at Ingersoll Rand during the years that the company used asbestos-containing parts could have been put at risk of exposure. They would not be at as great a risk as workers who directly handled asbestos, but they may have disturbed the fibers in the parts they were using which could then lead to exposure. Also at risk was anyone who worked with Ingersoll Rand products that contained asbestos in other jobs and industries. For instance, someone who worked on a boiler on a ship with an Ingersoll Rand compressor could have been exposed to the asbestos in it. The kinds of workers who could have been at risk include boiler workers, engineers, factory workers, sailors and seamen, and maintenance and repair workers.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma Lawsuits
Because of its connection to asbestos, Ingersoll Rand has been forced to face a number of lawsuits from sick workers and the loved ones of deceased workers seeking compensation and justice. Unlike some companies, Ingersoll Rand has been able to settle or dismiss these lawsuits without needing to resort to bankruptcy protection or the formation of an asbestos trust. In one example of a case against Ingersoll Rand, a widow of a former power plant worker was awarded $1 million. The award was to be paid by several companies, including Ingersoll Rand, companies whose asbestos products he worked with throughout his career.
Ingersoll Rand has been able to settle or dismiss thousands more cases and has managed to survive the payouts and remain a successful company. If you believe that Ingersoll Rand products played a role in your asbestos-related illness, you can work with a mesothelioma lawyer to help you make your case and file a claim for adequate compensation.
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