J.T. Thorpe and Son, Inc.
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J.T. Thorpe and Son, Inc. is the largest refractory contractor in the United States and once made many of its products with asbestos. Many workers who became sick with asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma have brought lawsuits against the company, which led to bankruptcy protection and a trust fund to compensate victims.
J.T. Thorpe and Son History and Asbestos
J.T. Thorpe began operations in 1906 in San Francisco, just after the great earthquake and subsequent fires that devastated the city.
- While the company originally did commercial work, JTT expanded into manufacturing and installing large industrial furnaces in 1908.
- The company’s first big job was for Standard Oil in Richmond, California. From there, JTT expanded its work to other industrial sites in the San Francisco Bay area, including power plants, refineries, and large ships.
- Beginning in the 1930s, J.T. Thorpe supplied shipyards with asbestos products. It also supplied U.S. Navy ships.
- The company had plenty of work in Northern California and, for decades, rarely expanded out of this region. In the 1990s, JTT began to diversify and grow. The company expanded geographically, first to Southern California, then to Arizona and Utah.
- Eventually, JTT expanded operations all over the country and abroad, providing refractory products, maintenance, installation, and consulting in all kinds of industrial settings.
- Refractory products withstand very high temperatures in industries like oil refining, steel manufacturing, and power generation. J.T. Thorpe and other manufacturers made refractory materials with asbestos for many years because of its ability to resist heat and fire.
Today, J.T. Thorpe is the largest refractory consulting company in the country today with headquarters in San Francisco. It operates eight other offices with more than 700 employees. JTT provides a range of services, including designing, manufacturing, and installing refractory products.
How Did JTT Use Asbestos?
For decades, several industries have used asbestos. Many companies used it abundantly before the risk and dangers were known and often even after that.
The refractory industry manufactured boilers, furnaces, and fireproof materials. Asbestos was useful in these industries because of its ability to withstand high temperatures. J.T. Thorpe was no exception and used asbestos in refractory products through the 1980s.
J.T. Thorpe and Sons Asbestos Products
Fireproof bricks and other refractory materials made by JTT contained asbestos. Today the company makes its products without asbestos. However, this harmful mineral was once a key part of the recipe.
Some of the J.T. Thorpe products with asbestos included:
- Refractory cement
- Refractory blocks
- Blankets and cloth
Workers at Risk of Asbestos Exposure from J.T. Thorpe
The major hazard to working with or around asbestos is that the small fibers can flake off and contaminate the air. Workers can inhale and ingest these fibers unless they wear proper protective gear.
Workers who made JTT asbestos products were at serious risk of exposure to these fibers. These fibers were brought home on their clothing, putting their families at risk. Handling asbestos directly was risky;
Workers using JTT products in other industries also may have inhaled the harmful fibers:
- Maintenance workers
- Foundry workers
- Steel mill workers
- Shipyard workers
- Oil refinery workers
Numerous ships, especially in the Bay Area, contained components made by JTT during the years that it used asbestos. Shipbuilders and repairers were exposed to asbestos, risking illness.
Among these were U.S. Naval workers, officers, and sailors who later developed mesothelioma or lung cancer. Those who worked around the boilers on ships were at the greatest risk.
Asbestos Lawsuits Against J.T. Thorpe and Son
Because of heavy asbestos use in its products, JTT inevitably faced accusations of exposing past workers and causing dangerous illnesses like mesothelioma. This led to numerous lawsuits.
- Secundino Medina worked in manufacturing factories from 1959 through 1988. He received a diagnosis of mesothelioma in 2009 and died in 2010. His family sued multiple defendants for asbestos exposure that led to his death. These included J.T. Thorpe. A California jury awarded Medina’s family $38.9 million. The award included over $32 million in punitive damages, which an appeals court eventually threw out.
- Ervan Groves was exposed to asbestos while working for Masonite Corporation in Ukiah, California, from 1964 to 1999. He installed insulated pipes and electrical and mechanical equipment. Groves and his wife sued multiple companies, including J.T. Thorpe, which was assigned 10% of the liability for damages awarded.
These are just two of the many asbestos lawsuits that involved J.T. Thorpe, often along with other asbestos companies or suppliers of asbestos products.
Bankruptcy and Asbestos Trust Fund
As lawsuits rolled in, JTT struggled to cover the costs of compensation. As a result, the company filed for bankruptcy. It reorganized under this legal protection in 2002.
In 2006, JTT emerged from bankruptcy. As a requirement of the bankruptcy, JTT funded a trust to compensate for future asbestos claims.
The company set up the J.T. Thorpe Settlement Trust with over $150 million. This allowed the company to continue operating as an asbestos-free refractory consultant.
In 2018, the trust increased the payment percentage 45% to 50%, a value higher than what most asbestos trusts offer.
It is important to distinguish this trust from others with similar names: Thorpe Insulation Settlement Trust and J.T. Thorpe Company Successor Trust.
What to Do if You Were Exposed to J.T. Thorpe Asbestos Products
If you or a loved one has mesothelioma and worked with J.T. Thorpe and refractory products, you could be eligible for a trust fund claim.
Contact an experienced mesothelioma lawyer to review your case for free. They can determine all the companies involved that might be liable for your exposure and help you make a succesful claim.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.