M.H. Detrick Company
M.H. Detrick is a refractory products manufacturing and distributing company. Refractory products are materials that are designed and built to withstand high-temperature environments, such as in industrial furnaces, boilers, and steel refineries. The materials have to stand up to the heat without breaking and have to contain the heat and prevent fires.
The company became very successful at producing and selling effective refractory products, and they worked so well because they were made with asbestos. After years of working with the materials, some workers got sick with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis. The resulting lawsuits and expenses caused M.H. Detrick to file for bankruptcy protection and to create an asbestos trust fund that has since been closed. The company continues to operate today, but without the use of asbestos.
About M.H. Detrick
In spite of its past troubles with asbestos and related litigation, M.H. Detrick Company has been able to build on its past successes to continue operating today. The company now continues to supply refractory materials and products to a variety of industries. The area of focus of the company in the past and today is suspended refractory constructions for heat enclosures in industrial settings. They provide materials for high-temperature industries that can withstand not just heat, but also chemicals. The company also includes insulation to reduce heat loss.
The history of the M.H. Detrick Company dates back to 1925 when it was founded as a heat enclosure manufacturing company in Mokena, Illinois. The company continues to operate from Mokena today. With humble beginnings the company quickly grew into a national and then international leader in heat enclosure refractory linings and industrial insulation. The nature of the products created meant that Detrick used a lot of asbestos in its manufacturing processes. This use eventually led to lawsuits against the company from those who got sick because of asbestos exposure. The lawsuits in turn led to bankruptcy and an asbestos trust. Today the company operates again, after bankruptcy reorganization, and the trust is no longer active.
Use of Asbestos in Refractory Materials
Refractory materials like the heat enclosures and insulation that Detrick make have to be able to withstand very high temperatures without breaking and without leaking much heat. In the past, companies that made these kinds of materials achieved the desired properties by using asbestos, and M.H. Detrick was no exception.
Asbestos was used for several reasons, but mostly it was used in refractory materials because it is very effective at containing heat, insulating, and preventing fires. Additionally, asbestos at one time, when it was most heavily used, was easy to get from mining and was inexpensive. It was also desirable for a number of industrial materials because it is flexible and can be molded to various shapes, and it adds strength and durability.
Over many years, M.H. Detrick used this harmful product in the manufacturing of its refractory materials. This was common practice, even as people began to realize how dangerous asbestos exposure could be to human health. Some of the products that Detrick made that were known to contain high amounts of asbestos were insulating, fireproofing, casing, and finishing cements, block insulation, plastic insulation, asbestos rope, permiseal, asbestolux, asbestos board, fire bricks, pipe coverings, and boiler coatings.
Workers Affected by M.H. Detrick Asbestos
Any workers that handled or even worked in the vicinity of asbestos could have been exposed to and harmed by the small fibers of asbestos that cause damage to human health. When asbestos is contained, it poses no risks to health. But, when the tiny fibers that make up this mineral are disturbed, they can come lose and become airborne or settle on surfaces as dust. This easily happens when the mineral is handled by workers, manipulated, and used to make products like refractory materials.
Those workers that handled or were near asbestos in M.H. Detrick’s manufacturing facility were likely to have been exposed to the fibers and to have inhaled them. Over many years the fibers in the body may cause damage and some people will later be diagnosed with very serious illnesses like lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.
It was not just the M.H. Detrick workers who could have been impacted by asbestos from their products. Workers in other industries, supplied by the company, were also put at risk. The company provided materials for steel, construction, fiberglass, boiler, metal refining, incinerator, and other related industries. Any workers in these industries that were around these asbestos products could have been exposed.
This exposure over many years to asbestos did cause some people to get sick. Some of these workers sought compensation and justice, citing the fact that M.H. Detrick put them at risk and never warned them of how dangerous it was to work with asbestos. The company began facing these lawsuits over asbestos exposure beginning in the 1980s. Asbestos illnesses like mesothelioma have a long latency period, and that was why lawsuits didn’t start earlier. Workers from decades earlier were just finding out they were sick.
One example of a lawsuit against M.H. Detrick was brought by a former worker and his wife, Wesley and Annie Roberts. Roberts named several defendants, including Detrick, that caused him to be exposed to asbestos while he worked as a pipefitter for an oil refinery for several decades. Roberts died from mesothelioma, but his case was settled for his widow and she received compensation.
Bankruptcy and Asbestos Trust
The lawsuits that piled up against M.H. Detrick became costly. The company settled many of them, often for undisclosed amounts. As a result the company couldn’t keep up and was faced to file for bankruptcy protection in 1998. The company reorganized and emerged from bankruptcy in 2002. In that same year it also created an asbestos trust, funded with $3 million, to cover future claims brought by former workers. The company has been able to be successful in reorganization and is now operating again. Its trust is no longer active, though.
M.H. Detrick is just one of many companies that used asbestos over many years in making its products. Like those companies it caused people to get sick and to die from those asbestos illnesses. Detrick has paid the price for its asbestos use and now no longer uses the mineral in its refractory products. If you believe you have a claim against M.H. Detrick it is too late to file with the now inactive trust, but you still may be able to make a case and file a lawsuit. There still may be workers who are now being diagnosed, thanks to the long latency period of mesothelioma, so talk to a lawyer about your options and how you can seek out compensation.
Page edited by Dave Foster
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