Founded in 1925 and known for decades for its Gold Bond product line, National Gypsum was and continues to be a major supplier of wallboard and other construction materials. National Gypsum grew quickly from its original roots, becoming well known for its high quality products and its $5,000 “Gold Bond” guarantee of light and durable wall board.
Although the Gold Bond products from National Gypsum were as lightweight and strong as the company claimed, they also contained a lot of harmful asbestos. Declining home building and lawsuits over asbestos-related illnesses led to the 1990 bankruptcy, reorganization, and the creation of the National Gypsum Company Bodily Injury Trust. Today, victims of asbestos exposure through Gold Bond products can make a claim through the trust to get compensation.
About National Gypsum
Although it went through bankruptcy, National Gypsum emerged from reorganization and today is still a successful producer and seller of gypsum wallboard. In fact, the company is one of the largest manufacturers of gypsum wallboard in the world and the second largest in the U.S. The company operates from Charlotte, North Carolina and still sells its construction materials under the Gold Bond brand. In addition to Gold Bond gypsum board, the company also sells ProForm drywall products and PermaBase cement board.
National Gypsum Company History
The history of National Gypsum begins in 1925 when the company was founded by Melvin H. Baker, Joseph F. Haggerty, and Clarence E. Williams. These three businessmen founded their company in order to make and sell a new construction product: gypsum wallboard. The new and innovative wallboard was designed to be lighter and easier to use than competitors’ products, but to be just as strong if not stronger. The company sold all of its wallboard with a “Gold Bond” worth $5,000. If a customer could find a better and comparable product, the company would pay $5,000. The gimmick led to the brand name, Gold Bond.
National Gypsum found great success with Gold Bond gypsum board. It grew quickly as word of the high quality of the product spread, but the company also expanded and grew by buying up other companies. This expanded the product line to include other construction materials: adhesives, plastic panels, siding, cement, textured paint, wall stucco, rock wool, acoustic tiles, and many more.
Unfortunately, many of the products that National Gypsum made, including its famous Gold Bond wallboard, were made with asbestos. This caused some people to get sick with asbestos related illnesses and resulted in costly mesothelioma lawsuits. By 1990 National Gypsum was filing for bankruptcy protection. It emerged from chapter 11 in 1993 and today continues to operate and sell Gold Bond and other products, without asbestos.
Use of Asbestos in National Gypsum Products
Asbestos was commonly used in a range of construction materials before the 1970s. National Gypsum was not alone in using asbestos in gypsum wallboard and other products. Asbestos adds insulation to these products, fire protection, and strength and durability without extra weight. While the bulk of the wallboard was harmless gypsum, asbestos was a part of the recipe for many years. Almost every Gold Bond-branded product the company made at one point used asbestos in it.
A sampling of Gold Bond products that were known to have contained asbestos include the gypsum wallboard, asbestos panels, plaster, cement board, siding, joint compounds, plastic panels, fire-shield panels, and tar paper. Other brand name products from National Gypsum that contained asbestos at one time were E-Z Soak, Flexfelt, Abestone, Sprayolite, Thermotec, and Permaboard. National Gypsum stopped using asbestos in its products in the 1970s but the consequences of using it before then were long-term.
By using asbestos in the recipe for so many products, National Gypsum put a lot of workers at risk for having later health problems, including the progressive lung condition called asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. Workers in the National Gypsum facilities that made the products were put at risk because they were around asbestos, and many even handled it. Asbestos is composed of tiny fibers. These can easily be disturbed and become a part of the dust and air in the facility that workers may then inhale, causing damage and for some, later illnesses.
It was not only National Gypsum workers who got sick, though. Any workers who used their products in other industries were at risk. This was especially true for construction workers. These workers installed, replaced, and dismantled things like wallboard with asbestos. They sanded these materials and created asbestos dust. Any workers around or working with these products were at risk, including painters, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, plasterers, drywall installers, and others. They may also have brought asbestos dust home on their clothing, putting family members at risk too.
As the dangers of asbestos became well known and people started getting diagnosed with asbestos illnesses, National Gypsum began seeing lawsuits from victims. One example of a case came from a pipefitter who developed mesothelioma and died from the disease. He had been exposed to asbestos through various products including National Gypsum materials. Because the victim remembered seeing the Gold Bond brand at work sites, the company was included in the case as one of the several defendants.
In another case it was a university that sued National Gypsum. Mercer University sued the company, and others, in 1985 over the use of asbestos in construction materials. The school was forced to pay a lot of money to have materials replaced for the safety of staff and students. The case resulted in a win for the university, including $100,000 from National Gypsum. In a similar case the company was forced to pay $8.4 million to multiple school districts for the costs of replacing asbestos materials.
Bankruptcy and Asbestos Trust Fund
By the late 1980s, National Gypsum was facing several problems, including declining sales and the overwhelming costs of asbestos lawsuits. The company eventually decided to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protections. This occurred in 1990 and the company emerged, reorganized, in 1993. The re-emergence did not go as well as was hoped and again the company was forced to file for bankruptcy. In 2002, the company again filed and emerged in 2003.
As a part of this second reorganization, National Gypsum was required to create an asbestos trust, a source of money that could be used to compensate current and future victims of past asbestos exposure. The trust is called the National Gypsum Company Bodily Injury Trust and it was funded with $347 million from a variety of sources, including insurance policies. The trust is still active and claims can be made through it.
National Gypsum is still in operation today and is a successful company that produces wallboard and other products under the Gold Brand and other brand names. Although the company has stuck with the brand name that worked for it for so long, none of its current products contains any level of asbestos. With the trust that still operates, any new victims that emerge from past asbestos exposure have a chance to get the compensation they need. If you believe that any National Gypsum products contributed to your asbestos illness, contact an experienced lawyer to help you make a successful claim.
Page edited by Dave Foster
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