The Plibrico Company makes refractory materials and other components designed to withstand high-temperature environments. The company uses materials like alumina but at one time primarily used asbestos in its products. This led to several mesothelioma lawsuits, which eventually caused Plibrico to file for bankruptcy protection and reorganization in 2006 with a trust to pay claims to victims.
Plibrico specializes in turnkey, monolithic refractory products. Refractory materials must withstand extremely high temperatures, like those in refineries, furnaces, and metalworking plants.
Plibrico’s materials are even more specific, focusing on components molded in one piece and custom work designed to fit each client’s space and needs.
Plibrico products are distributed in the United States, while the company sends Plico-branded products to international customers. The company headquarters are in Northbrook, Illinois, and materials are manufactured in Oak Hill, Ohio.
Plibrico was founded in 1914 by W.A.L. Schaeffer. Initially, the company was named Pliable Brick Company, and it was later shortened to Plibrico.
Schaeffer was an innovator in refractory materials. He saw the future in custom-designed materials and products, as well as on-site installation. He also developed more modern materials for refractory products.
Unfortunately, some of those materials included asbestos. Asbestos was once commonly used in the refractory industry because it has superior qualities for molding, strengthening, and insulating in high-temperature environments. Because of the company’s asbestos use,
Plibrico eventually faced numerous lawsuits over an asbestos-related illness. The expense of these lawsuits caused the company to file for bankruptcy before opening up once again for business.
Asbestos Use by Plibrico
Asbestos was a common material in the refractory industry in the early and middle 20th century. At the time, asbestos was the best-known material for making these products. Asbestos was readily available and inexpensive.
This natural mineral was also easily shaped and molded and added strength and durability. Most importantly, asbestos effectively withstands extreme heat and fire, which is exactly what refractory materials need.
For several decades, Plibrico used asbestos in nearly all its refractory products. These products included the custom monolithic pieces the company was best known for. Plibrico also used asbestos in other products like insulating cement, coatings for boilers and furnaces, casting materials, and various types of insulation and coverings.
During the time Plibrico used asbestos, many people risked asbestos exposure. Anyone who handled asbestos and anyone working in the same facility was put at risk of being harmfully exposed.
Asbestos is dangerous because its tiny fibers easily come loose to float in the air. Once airborne, anyone in the vicinity can inhale or ingest them. These microscopic fibers do not pass through the body but stick in tissues, causing extensive damage over time. For some people, this leads to lung cancer, mesothelioma, or asbestosis.
Plibrico workers were at risk of exposure and illness. This includes industrial workers, those who worked with furnaces and boilers, repair and maintenance workers, insulation installers, cement workers, and many others.
Workers who installed the refractory materials were also at risk, as were employees of companies that handled Plibrico asbestos products. Some workers also put their families at risk by bringing home asbestos fibers on their clothing.
Heavy asbestos use in the refractory industry caught up with most companies, and Plibrico was no exception. Although Plibrico was successful for decades, its asbestos use ultimately caused thousands of people to get sick.
As in other industries, many of these sick workers sued the companies responsible for exposing them to harmful asbestos fibers.
Plibrico saw the bulk of its lawsuits in the 1980s and 1990s; however, these expensive lawsuits continued into the 2000s as more workers received asbestos-related diagnoses.
For example, in 2001, Plibrico was one defendant in a New Jersey Steamfitters Union case. These and other class action and individual lawsuits forced Plibrico into a difficult position. Because these lawsuits were so costly, the company risked going out of business.
Plibrico Bankruptcy and Asbestos Trust for Victims
The pile-up of lawsuits over asbestos-related illnesses eventually was more than Plibrico could handle. Plibrico turned to a solution common for businesses in this position by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Chapter 11 allows a company to reorganize and set aside funds to compensate victims.
Plibrico finally filed for bankruptcy in 2002, but it took four years to finalize a reorganization plan agreeable to the bankruptcy court.
As part of the reorganization, Plibrico created an asbestos trust to compensate valid claims from asbestos victims. It is called the Plibrico asbestos trust. The company funded it with more than $206 million. This trust remains active and is accepting claims. Plibrico continues to operate and sell refractory products without asbestos.
Plibrico used asbestos without warning workers of the risks associated with handling this harmful mineral. As a result, many people developed terminal illnesses and had their lives cut short. If you believe Plibrico caused your asbestos exposure, you have a right to seek compensation. You can do this by filing a claim with the asbestos trust; however, it is best to work with a mesothelioma lawyer for the best chance of receiving compensation.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.