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Kelly-Moore Paint Company

Kelly-Moore is among the largest companies in the U.S. providing paint and related construction supplies and materials. It is an employee-owned company with a long history in developing, manufacturing, and selling paint and painting tools and supplies, including safety equipment, rollers and brushes, and primers for exterior and interior paints.

There was a time when Kelly-Moore used asbestos in some of its products, including joint cements, joint compounds, wall texture paints, taping compounds, and other construction materials. This use of asbestos led to lawsuits against the company as workers who used these materials got sick with asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. The company has been able to avoid bankruptcy and reorganization in spite of the cost of the mounting lawsuits.

Company History

Kelly-Moore today is one of the largest producers and sellers of paint and paint-related materials. It began back in 1946 when the company was founded by William Kelly and William Moore. The two men formerly worked as a superintendent and a lab technician and sales representative for Glidden paints when they decided to start their own post-World War II business. The first Kelly-Moore store opened in San Carlos, California, which would be followed by many more as the company grew and expanded.

Moore bought out his partner, William Kelly in 1952, but he kept the original name for its brand recognition. Moore remained in control of the company until his retirement in 1984. During those years he grew the business into a large and successful operation with more than 80 stores around the country, and more than $100 million in annual sales. Kelly-Moore is now one of the largest paint companies in the U.S., and unique for being employee-owned, a move made by the Moore family in 1998 to keep up the tradition of being a family business. The company’s 80 stores are supplied by two manufacturing facilities, in San Carlos, and Hurst, Texas.

Asbestos Use in Products

Asbestos was used in some of Kelly-Moore’s paints and other products for its ability to resist fire and heat and as a thickener and filler for paints. Although the company now is focused on paint and painting equipment and tools, at one time it made other related construction materials like drywall, compounds, wall textures, and adhesives. These materials were often made with asbestos because the natural mineral provided insulation, fireproofing, heat resistance, and durability. This use of asbestos went on in many industries until it was widely known that it was harmful to human health and the federal government put restrictions on its use in the 1970s.

Several products made by Kelly-Moore in the 1950s and through the 1970s included asbestos. Some of these were Paco brand joint cement, spray texture, topping compound, joint compound, joint cement, taping compound, texture paint, wall texture, and quick-set joint compound. Also made with asbestos was bedding cement and Deco-tex ceiling texture. These are in addition to the paints that contained asbestos as a filler to thicken them.

Asbestos Exposure in Workers

Asbestos exposure occurs when fibers of this natural mineral break off and enter the air and become part of the dust in a room or facility. These tiny fibers may be ingested or inhaled and cause damage over many years. The damage to tissues in the body, in some people, causes devastating and aggressive cancers like mesothelioma and lung cancer, or the progressive lung scarring known as asbestosis. Why some people get sick from exposure and others do not is not understood, but asbestos is the number one risk factor for mesothelioma.

Workers who made Kelly-Moore products and paints were put at risk of exposure. They could easily have breathed in the fibers on the job, but they were not the only ones put at risk. Construction workers, including drywall installers, painters, and others using Kelly-Moore asbestos-containing products, could also have been exposed. Especially harmful was the sanding that workers did with drywall and joint compounds that contained asbestos. This produced dangerous asbestos dust that could have exposed any workers on a job site. Even homeowners whose houses were constructed with Kelly-Moore products could have been put at risk of asbestos illnesses and exposure.

Asbestos Lawsuits and Union Carbide

Because of the harm that asbestos can cause, Kelly-Moore has faced a number of lawsuits from people who were exposed through their products and got sick as a result. Largely brought by painters and other construction workers, these people have filed claims by the thousands, looking for justice and compensation. Some cases have resulted in settlements, costing the company a lot of money.

One of these cases involved Alfredo Hernandez, a construction worker who used Kelly-Moore joint compounds and won a $55.5 million settlement because of developing mesothelioma. Another case was brought by Robert Tregget in 2004. He won his trial in California with a $36.6 million award granted by the jury. Several defendants were listed, and Kelly-Moore was found to be responsible for paying 14 percent of the award. Tregget had used a Kelly-Moore joint compound in remodeling his home.

Not all cases were as costly as the Hernandez case, but Kelly-Moore still felt that it did not hold all the liability for these illnesses. In a move to protect itself from the costs of asbestos lawsuits, Kelly-Moore filed a lawsuit worth over $4 billion against Union Carbide in 2002. Union Carbide provided Kelly-Moore with many of the asbestos materials that went into its paints and other products. The company claimed that Union Carbide failed to warn of the dangers of asbestos materials, but Union Carbide argued back that Kelly-Moore did know the risks. Ultimately the trial found that Union Carbide was not guilty of tricking Kelly-Moore into buying what it thought was a safe material.

Kelly-Moore has faced a number of lawsuits over asbestos and has had to pay out settlements in many of them. In spite of this, the company has been able to avoid bankruptcy. This means it has also avoided creating a trust to compensate victims. If you think that Kelly-Moore products affected your health, talk to an experienced mesothelioma lawyer to determine if you have a case and to decide how to proceed.

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