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Leslie Controls, Inc.

Leslie Controls is a company that has been making industrial products for more than 100 years, specializing in various types of valves, especially for steam and water pressure. The company’s long history has included providing parts and components for U.S. Navy vessels, particularly during World War II. Unfortunately it was during this time period that using asbestos in parts like valves was very common.

Many of Leslie’s products were made with asbestos over the years, and like many other companies this use caught up with Leslie and resulted in a number of lawsuits from Navy veterans, employees, and workers in other industries who used their products and were exposed to asbestos. The burden of these lawsuits forced the company to file for bankruptcy, from which it emerged reorganized and with an asbestos trust fund in 2011.

About Leslie Controls

Leslie Controls, Inc. is a company headquartered in Tampa, Florida, that manufactures control valves, steam water heaters, safety and relief valves, regulators, steam conditioning systems, on/off and shut off valves, actuators, and pump protection valves. The company is also a leading maker of air horns for trains. Leslie is currently a brand name of products sold under Circor Energy and is one of the larger companies divisions, headed under the Thermal Fluid Division.

History of the Company

Although the company is now based in Tampa, Florida, Leslie was founded by Canadian John Leslie. He founded the company after inventing a steam-powered snow plow that could be used by trains to clear tracks in the winter. The company began in 1905 with the production of regulators and steam pressure valves, and was based out of a foundry and office in Lyndhurst, New Jersey.

Leslie Controls quickly built a name and a reputation in the industry for providing high-quality and reliable parts, particularly its regulators and steam pressure valves. This reputation led to its work with the U.S. military and the company provided many of the valves, regulators, and other similar parts used on U.S. Navy ships. By 1968, the company’s success necessitated a move to a larger facility in Parsippany, New Jersey and an expansion of the product line and customer base to include more industrial clients and utility companies.

Eventually, Leslie Controls moved to Tampa, Florida, where it is now headquartered. In the 1990s the company expanded its product line even more, to bring a total focus to providing products for team and other fluid management. Leslie was acquired by another company in 1990, but kept the name, and in turn acquired other, smaller companies to continue to grow and expand. During this time the company also began to face lawsuits over asbestos exposure, and ultimately would be forced into bankruptcy protection in 2010.

Use of Asbestos

Leslie Controls used asbestos in the manufacturing of many of its parts for many years. It was common, up until about the mid-1970s, for many industries to use asbestos. Those industries that involved high temperatures used asbestos particularly heavily. This is because the natural mineral is very effective and efficient at insulating and at resisting heat and fire. Leslie made parts that were used in boilers and steam engines, which meant they needed to contain materials that could resist heat and also create a flexible and durable seal.

Many of the components, especially valves, made by Leslie contained asbestos, up until 1988. The valves and other parts used gaskets, or seals, that contained asbestos and were made by third party companies. Among the parts from Leslie that contained these asbestos components were valves of all types, regulators, steam water heaters, packing materials, pipes, insulation, controls, and actuators.

Asbestos Exposure

Although asbestos provide the qualities needed in gaskets, valves, and other parts, it also posed serious risks to human health. Anyone who came into contact with these Leslie parts could have been exposed to the asbestos in them. That exposure, which involves unknowingly inhaling or ingesting tiny fibers from the mineral, leads some people to later be diagnosed with serious illnesses: mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

Factory workers for Leslie were likely to have been exposed, but a larger group of people exposed through their parts was all the workers in other industries who used the valves and other products. Anyone who worked on the mechanical systems that included these parts may have brushed, drilled, or scraped them, releasing asbestos fibers into the air.

Among those workers who were put at risk because of Leslie’s asbestos use are boiler workers, pipefitters, steam engine workers, maintenance and repair workers, and anyone who worked around them. Because Leslie supplied so many parts to navy ships, veterans of these vessels were also at risk. Navy veterans now have some of the highest rates of mesothelioma because of how much asbestos was used in ships. Leslie products were just one part of it.

Lawsuits over Asbestos

Leslie has faced thousands of lawsuits over asbestos and related illnesses over the years. A large number of these came from U.S. Navy veterans. One example was a case brought by a veteran who spent 20 years serving on four different navy vessels in his military career. He worked with the valves and gaskets provided by Leslie and was eventually diagnosed with mesothelioma. Although the veteran was initially awarded over $1 million, Leslie was later able to get the decision reversed based on the veteran’s failure to completely connect his illness to Leslie products.

Bankruptcy and Reorganization

Not all of the lawsuits over asbestos went in Leslie’s favor and by 2010 the financial burden from these claims became too much. The company ended up filing for bankruptcy protection in 2010 an emerged reorganized a year later. As part of the agreement, Leslie created an asbestos trust, called the Leslie Controls Asbestos Personal Injury Trust, funded with $75 million. Leslie has recovered and is now a part of Circor Energy. The trust is still active and accepting claims. If you think that you developed an asbestos illness because of Leslie products, you can file a claim and make a case for getting compensation from the trust.

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