The Porter Hayden Company distributed sold and installed asbestos insulation throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Some exposed workers got sick with asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma. The company faced several lawsuits that led to bankruptcy and an asbestos trust to compensate victims.
Porter Hayden History and Asbestos
Porter Hayden was founded in 1966 when two older companies, H.W. Porter & Co. and Reid Hayden Inc., merged. The former was based in New Jersey and the latter in Maryland.
- The new company, Porter Hayden, operated out of Baltimore. Although the Porter Hayden Company did not manufacture any asbestos products, it did distribute and sell them to other companies.
- Porter Hayden distributed and installed insulation. Its products largely went into industrial workplaces like steel, chemical, and manufacturing plants.
- Throughout most of the 20th century, insulation products contained asbestos. Porter Hayden distributed asbestos insulation until the early 1970s.
- Because of the asbestos in the materials it installed, Porter Hayden was liable for asbestos illnesses in many people. Lawsuits against the company eventually led to its bankruptcy and the formation of an asbestos trust fund.
Porter Hayden did not survive lawsuits and bankruptcy. It no longer operates today.
How Did Porter Hayden Use Asbestos?
Unlike other insulation companies, Porter Hayden did not manufacture its own products. Instead, it sold and distributed insulation products and installed them.
It operated in this way until the 1970s when it stopped operations. Today Porter Hayden exists solely to cope with payments due to workers exposed to asbestos.
Through the years, asbestos was used in many insulation products by many different companies. Because asbestos is effective at insulating against temperature changes, it was often used to insulate homes, prevent heat loss from furnaces and boilers, and keep refrigeration units from overheating; additionally, asbestos was inexpensive and readily available.
Porter Hayden Asbestos Products
Nearly all products Porter Hayden used included asbestos until 1973:
- Pipe insulation
- Wall insulation
- Industrial insulation
- Commercial Insulation
- Residential insulation
- Ship insulation
Who Was at Risk of Asbestos Exposure From Porter Hayden Insulation?
Although asbestos is a useful, natural mineral, it is also extremely harmful to human health. When a piece of asbestos is disturbed, it can release microscopic needle-like fibers into the air.
These fibers become part of the dust that settles on surfaces. Once airborne, anyone nearby can ingest or inhale them without realizing it. Once in the body, the fibers become lodged in tissues, causing damage over time.
For some, this will eventually lead to a serious illness like lung cancer, mesothelioma, or asbestosis. These terminal illnesses usually develop decades after exposure.
Porter Hayden Employees
Porter Hayden may not have made the asbestos insulation it used, but the company still put many at risk by installing it in various buildings.
Porter Hayden insulation installers had some of the highest risks of asbestos exposure. These workers directly handled the asbestos-containing products. They cut into it, disrupting and loosening fibers.
Workers in Other Industries
Anyone in facilities where the insulation was installed could also have been exposed, and at the most significant risk were any workers who disturbed the insulation. This includes:
- Repair and maintenance workers
- Drywall workers
- Boiler and furnace workers
- Factory workers
- Shipyard workers
- Oil refinery workers
- Power plant workers
U.S. Navy Veterans
Porter Hayden distributed products to shipyards where asbestos insulation went into ships. This included Naval shipyards and ships, like Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
U.S. Navy veterans have some of the highest rates of mesothelioma because of how much asbestos went into ships. Those at the highest risk worked in boiler rooms and other tight spaces with poor ventilation.
Secondhand Asbestos Exposure
Families of workers exposed to Porter Hayden insulation also risked asbestos exposure. Before they knew the dangers, workers often carried asbestos fibers home on their clothing.
Known as take-home or secondhand asbestos exposure, family members could then be exposed to asbestos. Some of these people even got sick later and filed successful lawsuits against companies like Porter Hayden.
Asbestos Lawsuits Against Porter Hayden
The courts found Porter Hayden liable for a number of individual cases of asbestos illnesses because the company installed these products that caused the exposure.
It didn’t matter that the company didn’t make the products because it installed them, putting many people at risk. Porter Hayden saw its first asbestos lawsuit in 1976, just ten years after it was formed. This would be the first case of thousands.
- Some of the lawsuits were dismissed, including the case of Kazimierz Lapka, a chemical plant worker from Pennsylvania. Lapka claimed he worked with asbestos which later led to mesothelioma. Although he was sick earlier, he was not diagnosed definitively until 1984. Porter Hayden’s lawyers successfully argued he should have made a claim sooner, and the case was dismissed.
- Porter Hayden faced thousands of other lawsuits and often had to pay large settlement sums. This includes a 1992 case in which the company paid three plaintiffs a total of $11.2 million.
- A Maryland lawsuit against Porter Hayden from the 1980s was instrumental in defining that state’s wrongful death statute of limitations in asbestos cases. The widow of a worker who died from asbestos exposure sued Porter Hayden. The courts ultimately determined that the statute of limitations should begin when the link between asbestos and the death was discovered or at the time of death, whichever comes first.
- Porter Hayden also faced legal action from its insurer, Commercial Union. The insurer refused to cover asbestos claims, so the company took Commercial Union to court. It took 14 years of litigation to reach a settlement. The insurer agreed to add $15 million to the Porter Hayden Bodily Injury Trust.
Bankruptcy and Asbestos Trust
Eventually, the lawsuits overwhelmed Porter Hayden, and the company filed for bankruptcy. In 2002, Porter Hayden entered chapter 11 protection and did not emerge with a court-approved reorganization plan until 2007.
The plan included an asbestos trust called the Porter Hayden Bodily Injury Trust. The company funded this trust with $40 million to pay victims of asbestos exposure. The reorganization left the company as an entity that existed solely to deal with asbestos claims.
The Porter Hayden asbestos trust fund’s payment percentage is currently set at 1.8%.
If You Were Exposed to Porter Hayden Asbestos Insulation
If you have a claim against Porter Hayden, you can still file with the active trust. Let an experienced asbestos lawyer help you make a claim to improve your chances of a successful claim.
It’s also worth talking to a lawyer to find out if you have any other options for seeking compensation. A lawyer can review your case for free and explain other legal actions. Most people with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos by multiple companies. A lawyer can determine if you are eligible to file a lawsuit to seek a settlement.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Written by Mary Ellen Ellis
Mary Ellen Ellis has been the head writer for Mesothelioma.net since 2016. With hundreds of mesothelioma and asbestos articles to her credit, she is one of the most experienced writers on these topics. Her degrees and background in science and education help her explain complicated medical topics for a wider audience. Mary Ellen takes pride in providing her readers with the critical information they need following a diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness.
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.