The Mobil Oil Corporation, today known as ExxonMobil, is one of the world’s largest public oil and gas companies. Decades ago, much of the heavy equipment and infrastructure used in the oil and gas industry contained asbestos, and workers got sick as a result. The company faced lawsuits over mesothelioma and other illnesses but never filed for bankruptcy or created an asbestos victims’ trust.
ExxonMobil today has a long history that led it to become the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas company. It uses the latest technologies to meet the world’s energy demands, exploring oil and natural gas, extracting these resources, and refining and distributing petroleum products across the globe. The company has nearly forty refineries in multiple countries and is exploring both on land and underwater.
Mobil Oil Corporation was created in 1911, though its history goes back further. In 1870 the Standard Oil Company was founded by John D. Rockefeller and his associates.
At the time, it was the largest refining business in the world. Standard Oil continued to grow, buying the Vacuum Oil Company in 1879 and adding lubricants to its product lineup.
A big change came in 1911 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Standard Oil was too big and was violating anti-trust laws. The company had to break up into thirty-four wholly unrelated and separate businesses. These included the companies that would become Mobil Oil Corporation.
The name Mobil came from a product made by Vacuum. Vacuum Oil and Standard Oil of New York merged in 1931, and the new company took the name from that product to become Mobil Oil.
From the 1950s on, Mobil Oil grew and expanded, becoming an international player in oil and gas exploration and production. The company also owned and operated gas and service stations in the U.S. and abroad and sold products like motor oil and lubricants, along with gasoline. In 1999 Mobil merged with another big player in oil and gas, Exxon, and became ExxonMobil.
Use of Asbestos
Mobil’s oil and petroleum products did not contain asbestos; however, the company operated many of its facilities and equipment with the use of asbestos, which put workers at risk of exposure.
Asbestos was often used in industrial settings to help reduce the risk of machinery overheating, prevent or stop the spread of fires, insulate against heat loss, and protect workers from heat and fire. Asbestos is a cheap, abundant, natural mineral that is effective for all these uses.
Refineries, exploration and drilling equipment, pipelines, boilers and furnaces, ships, and other types of equipment used by Mobil Oil over the years contained a lot of asbestos. Many workers in these facilities would also have worn asbestos-containing protective gear in high-heat environments to protect from burns.
Anyone who worked at Mobil’s facilities or with the equipment, and even the family members of these workers, could have been exposed.
Asbestos is made up of tiny fibers that, when disturbed, can become airborne. When inhaled, these particles can lodge in the body and cause illness over time: lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. Workers may even have carried home fibers on their clothing, contaminating family members in the home.
The workers at the most significant risk of exposure worked directly with equipment and components that contained asbestos. For instance, repair and maintenance workers, pipefitters, plumbers, boiler and furnace workers, and others with hands-on jobs could have disturbed the asbestos during their duties and caused fibers to be released into the air.
Asbestos Lawsuits against Mobil Oil
The extensive use of asbestos in its facilities and equipment, and the large size of the company, led to several lawsuits being filed against Mobil over many years as workers and their family members became sick and received asbestos-related diagnoses.
While the company had enough money to cover the expenses of these lawsuits, some are still ongoing.
- One case against Mobil was brought by the widow of a man, George R. Smith, who worked as a plumber and pipefitter. He listed several companies as defendants in the case. Smith developed mesothelioma, and as the trial went on, the court dismissed all the other companies and found liability to be Mobil’s alone. The company was found negligent in this man’s mesothelioma, and death and his widow won more than $4 million in damages.
- In another case, a worker at a Mobil refinery in Benicia, California, developed asbestosis and cancer after decades on the job. The trial concluded that the worker, Merle Sandy, had been exposed to asbestos on the job and that this contributed to his illnesses. Evidence even proved that Mobil may have known about the risks of asbestos as early as 1937. Sandy won a settlement of over $1 million from Mobil.
Although Mobil faced a number of lawsuits like these, many of which forced the company to pay damages, it did not have to file bankruptcy, reorganize, or set up a trust fund for victim claims. The company was big enough to survive the litigation and grow into a large international oil and gas company.
Mobil Oil, now ExxonMobil, may have survived the asbestos litigation it has faced so far, but its battles are not over. Without an asbestos trust available, victims of asbestos exposure and illness have no recourse but to file a lawsuit to seek compensation.
There is still time to do so, and many more workers may still come forward with new mesothelioma diagnoses. If you are one of these workers, a mesothelioma lawyer can help you decide what steps you need to take next and if you have a case to make against Mobil that has a chance of being successful.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.