Fullerton, California-based Metalclad Insulation Corp. made insulation beginning in 1933, when asbestos was common in the industry. Many ships, including those in the navy, used this insulation, leading to a high incidence of mesothelioma in shipyard workers, crews, and U.S. Navy veterans. Metalclad faced several lawsuits and eventually stopped making insulation.
About the Company
Metalclad was founded in 1933 in Torrance, California, to make and install insulation. The company also made fireproofing materials. Its products were used in a number of different industries, including HVAC, public utilities, maritime, plumbing, construction, and others.
Metalclad made a name for itself by designing specialty insulation, such as pipe covering, insulating cement, insulated metal panels, and asbestos cloth. The company was also involved in hazardous waste removal and waste management, industries it focuses on today after selling its entire asbestos inventory in 1972.
While Metalclad supplied several different industries with insulation and related materials that contained asbestos, the U.S. Navy was a big recipient.
In the 1960s, for example, Metalclad supplied the Long Beach Naval Shipyard with block insulation, asbestos cloth, asbestos pipe covering, and other products. These were used on vessels operating during the Vietnam War. The company knew there were risks associated with asbestos and failed to warn those it supplied, including the U.S. Navy.
Use of Asbestos
Asbestos is a natural mineral mined from the earth for multiple uses. It is made up of tiny fibers and can be molded into many different shapes. Adding it to other materials makes them stronger without adding much extra weight.
This property, in particular made it useful on ships. Most importantly, however, asbestos resists heat and fire. This has led to its extensive use in insulation and fireproofing, and protective materials.
Metalclad operated when asbestos was widely used for insulation and fireproofing. No one yet knew that the mineral could cause fatal respiratory illnesses like mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Like similar manufacturers, Metalclad used asbestos extensively in its products. Asbestos went into nearly all of its specialty insulation products to provide superior protection and insulation against heat.
One brand that used asbestos was Unibestos. Products that contained asbestos included pipe coverings, insulation blocks, asbestos fireproofing cloth and materials, insulating cement, pipe insulation, and valve insulation pads.
Exposure in Workers and Veterans
By the middle of the 20th century, experts determined that asbestos harmed human health. When workers or others accidentally inhale or ingest the tiny fibers of this mineral, they remain in the body and cause damage to tissues over decades.
During this long latency period, people may be getting sick without realizing it. The damage from asbestos fibers can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma in different parts of the body, and asbestosis, a type of lung scarring.
Workers who made Metalclad products and those in other industries that used those products faced the risk of harmful exposure to asbestos fibers.
Any work that caused the asbestos in insulation and other products to become exposed or damaged could release the dangerous fibers into the air, putting anyone in the area at risk. Those who handled the asbestos in Metalclad factories were at risk.
At particular risk were those who installed, maintained, or repaired the insulation or the materials insulated by Metalclad products. Also at risk were any workers in facilities that used the insulation. Workers in power plants, oil refineries, factories, construction sites, and many other settings could have been impacted by Metalclad insulation.
U.S. Navy veterans who worked on vessels that used asbestos insulation have a high risk. Navy ships used asbestos heavily to protect against fire, which is so dangerous on ships, and because it was lightweight. Many veterans are now struggling with asbestos illnesses because of Metalclad and other asbestos product suppliers.
Because of the illnesses caused by asbestos exposure through insulation, Metalclad has faced many lawsuits. It has settled some cases, lost, and been forced to pay compensation in some, and won against the plaintiff in other cases.
- An appeals court in California recently revived one such case. It concerned the death of a man who worked at a Goodyear Tire plant and developed mesothelioma. He claimed that the company used Metalclad asbestos insulation which made him sick. Initially, the case went in favor of Metalclad. Later evidence revealed the company did have insulation in the plant and that repair work on it created asbestos dust that likely contributed to the worker’s illness.
- In another case, the plaintiff lost against Metalclad. He worked as a civilian on and around Navy submarines and handled Unibestos. He developed mesothelioma, but a court decided in favor of Metalclad.
- Another case involved a man who developed asbestosis after working at the Vallejo shipyard in California. He unloaded asbestos insulation. His lawsuit against other contractors was successful, but Metalclad received immunity. The First District Court of Appeal decided Metalclad was immune as a government contractor.
- In 2020, Ronald Wilgenbusch and his wife sued Metalclad over the mesothelioma he developed after serving as an admiral in the navy. Over a Zoom trial, the jury awarded them $2.5 million.
If you believe Metalclad products contributed to your asbestos-related illness, you have an opportunity to make a case against the company. With a long latency period, these illnesses are still being diagnosed, and if you get sick, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact an asbestos lawyer to find out what you can do about it.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
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.