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Mobil Oil Corporation

Today’s ExxonMobil was once known as the Mobil Oil Corporation and is now one of the largest public oil and gas companies in the world. Mobil merged with Exxon in 1999 to become such a large company that explores, produces, and sells petroleum products. Mobil Oil has a long history that begins in the 1800s when it was part of the Standard Oil Company that was broken up in the federal government’s anti-trust judgment in the early 1900s.

Another important part of the history of the modern ExxonMobil is the extensive use of asbestos and resulting harm that it caused workers. Much of the heavy equipment and infrastructure used in the oil and gas industry contained asbestos and workers got sick as a result. Some workers developed mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. The company faced lawsuits over these illnesses but never had to file for bankruptcy or create an asbestos victims’ trust.

About ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil today has a long history that led it to become the largest publicly traded oil and gas company in the world. It uses the latest technologies to meet the world’s demands for energy, exploring for oil and natural gas, extracting these resources, and refining and distributing the petroleum products around the world. The company has nearly 40 refineries in multiple countries and is exploring both on land and offshore.

Company History

The history of Mobil Oil and today’s ExxonMobil goes back to 1870 although the official beginning date of the Mobil Oil Corporation was in 1911. It was in 1870 that 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 only 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 was forced to break up into 34 completely 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 later 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 MobilExxon.

Use of Asbestos

The products that Mobil has produced and sold, the 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, to prevent or stop the spread of fires, to insulate against heat loss, and to protect workers from heat and fire. Asbestos is a natural mineral that is effective at all of these purposes and that for a long time was accessible and inexpensive.

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 hear in high-heat environments to protect from heat and burns.

Asbestos Exposure

The people who were put at risk of being exposed to asbestos because of Mobil Oil include anyone who worked at any of the facilities or with the equipment, and even the family members of these workers. Asbestos is made up of miniscule fibers that when disturbed, can become airborne. When inhaled with the air around it, 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 biggest risk of exposure were those that 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 the course of 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 a number of 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 assets and was large enough to cover the expenses of these lawsuits, they did pile up and some are still ongoing, costing the company money.

One example of a case against Mobil was brought by the widow of a man, George R. Smith, who worked as a plumber and pipefitter. Several companies were listed as defendants in the case. Smith developed mesothelioma and as the trial went on, all the other companies were dismissed and liability was found to sit with Mobil 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 to continue to 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 may not yet be 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.

Page edited by 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.

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