Kentile Floors is no longer in business but for decades made flooring materials with asbestos. The company faced thousands of lawsuits over mesothelioma and other asbestos illnesses in workers. Kentile filed for bankruptcy in the 1990s and subsequently went out of business.
Kentile History and Asbestos
Arthur Kennedy founded Kentile Floors in 1898. The company remained in Brooklyn for 100 years before going out of business. Originally, the company produced vinyl, rubber, and cork floor tiles.
- Kentile became successful by offering flooring in a wide range of materials, colors, and patterns. The company also offered products that could be installed by homeowners, removing the added expense of professional installation.
- In 1949, Kentile introduced its asphalt tiles. This and the post-war construction boom helped Kentile grow rapidly throughout the late 1940s and 1950s. Vinyl asbestos flooring, like that offered by Kentile, was hugely popular at the time.
- Successful for many years, Kentile was well known for its durable and resilient tiles, which were available across the country. Unfortunately, the durability of these famous flooring tiles was largely due to the use of asbestos. Some estimates state Kentile floors contained 25% asbestos.
- Kentile continued to use asbestos in at least some of its floor products until 1986. As people became sick and connected their illnesses to Kentile’s asbestos tiles, the company faced mounting costs of asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits.
In 1992, Kentile filed for bankruptcy. It emerged in 1998 as Metex Manufacturing Corporation, which was still liable for asbestos claims. Metex filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and opened an asbestos trust.
How Did Kentile Use Asbestos?
Asbestos is a natural mineral with several important and unique qualities. In the 20th century, asbestos was commonly used in a variety of industries because of these qualities and its low cost.
Asbestos was highly prized because it is strong, durable, moldable, and resists heat, fire, electricity, and chemical reactions. Kentile used asbestos in the backing material in most of its flooring tiles to make them stronger and more durable.
Kentile Products with Asbestos
While Kentile used asbestos in nearly all of its flooring, it was particularly prevalent in vinyl tiles, adhesives, and asphalt tiles. The asbestos helped make these tiles extremely durable, a quality for which the company was well known.
Some of the brands and types of Kentile floor materials with asbestos include:
- Kenflex vinyl floor tiles
- Kenlite asphalt vinyl floor tiles
- Kencork cork floor tiles
- Kenrubber rubber floor tiles
Who Was at Risk of Asbestos Exposure to Kentile Asbestos Flooring
Different groups were affected by the asbestos in Kentile flooring tiles. Most affected were Kentile’s own factory workers. These workers either had to handle the asbestos to make the flooring or were in the area while asbestos was used in production.
While asbestos used in manufacturing is generally non-friable, meaning it doesn’t easily crumble, there is a risk that asbestos fibers could potentially contaminate the air.
When asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, they can cause serious damage inside the body. While not everyone who is exposed will become sick, those who do may develop life-threatening illnesses, like mesothelioma cancer, lung cancer, and asbestosis.
Workers Exposed in Other Industries
In addition to Kentile Floor employees, other workers handled or worked near asbestos flooring and risked exposure. Those who installed this tile flooring were most at risk, especially when they cut tiles for installation.
The other types of construction workers who could have been exposed include:
- Demolition workers
- Drywall workers
- Tile repairers
- Demolition workers
Also at risk are renovation and remodeling workers who cut and remove old asbestos-containing Kentile floors in homes and commercial buildings.
Secondhand Asbestos Exposure
Before workers knew the dangers of asbestos, they often brought fibers home on their clothing and in their hair. This contaminated homes and put family members at risk of secondhand, or secondary, exposure.
There are many recorded cases of wives and children of men who worked with asbestos developing mesothelioma years later.
Asbestos Exposure in Homeowners
Finally, homeowners could have been exposed to asbestos in Kentile flooring. Having asbestos in the home can be dangerous. If flooring tiles are disturbed or decay, the fibers can become airborne and cause exposure issues.
The risk of exposure is high for any homeowners who did their own renovations or tore out old asbestos floor tiles. Without proper training and safety equipment, these homeowners could have inhaled or ingested asbestos dust.
Asbestos Lawsuits Against Kentile
Kentile faced thousands of lawsuits due to asbestos exposure and resulting illnesses. By 1992, the company turned to chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as a result of these lawsuits.
Kentile reorganized and emerged from bankruptcy in 1998 but failed to regain its financial footing. People continue to file lawsuits against the defunct flooring company. These are just some examples of asbestos lawsuits against Kentile Floors:
- Among the lawsuits filed against Kentile is one by Beverly Fisher. Fisher’s husband, Sidney, died from lung cancer. For decades, Sidney worked as a plumber with and around a variety of construction products, including Kentile floors. The case was a mass tort, naming several companies the Fishers believed responsible for his cancer. The case did not prove Kentile was liable for this man’s asbestos-related illness, but appeals are currently going forward.
- In another case, Kentile was found responsible in part for a case of mesothelioma. William Harrell and his wife filed a lawsuit against several companies. A Los Angeles jury awarded the plaintiffs $1.6 million. Kentile was required to pay 6% of the award.
Kentile’s Bankruptcy and Asbestos Trust
Most companies that have faced asbestos-related lawsuits and filed for bankruptcy protection are required to form an asbestos trust. These trusts are funded with an initial investment from the company and pay claimants for years.
Then funds are administered by a third party who validates claims for people impacted by the company’s asbestos use.
Facing mounting lawsuits, Kentile filed for bankruptcy in 1992. Its first attempt at creating a trust fund failed
Kentile was reorganized as Metex Manufacturing Company. Metex held Kentile’s asbestos liabilities, which again led to bankruptcy. Metex filed in 2012 and reorganized in 2014. This time, the asbestos trust fund was approved by the courts and was funded with $193 million.
The Metex Asbestos Personal Injury Trust continues to compensate claimants today. As of 2023, the payment percentage for the trust is 7.25%.
What to Do if You Worked with Kentile Asbestos Flooring
They will find out which companies are responsible for your asbestos exposure, as there are often multiple companies involved. They can determine which legal options you have and help you file a successful claim with the Metex trust.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.