Raymark was the most recent name of the company that became famous for its Raybestos brakes. Headquartered in Stratford, Connecticut the company was initially called Raytech and became well-known and successful for its high-quality automobile brake products. As was the case with many similar companies, Raymark used asbestos in its brakes for several decades.
Unfortunately that asbestos caused people to get sick with illnesses like lung cancer and mesothelioma. The company faced so many lawsuits over asbestos that it was forced to go into bankruptcy, reorganize, and establish an asbestos trust for compensating victims. In addition to the harm done to individuals, Raymark created a huge environmental mess in Stratford, Connecticut, which was eventually listed as an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Site.
The history of the modern Raymark dates back to 1902 when the company was called the A.H. Raymond Company. It was founded by Arthur H. Raymond and Arthur F. Law and was headquartered in Stratford, Connecticut. The company name soon changed to Raybestos Industries, and it became synonymous with excellence in brakes. Raybestos eventually merged with a competitor and the name changed again to Raybestos-Manhattan, and then later to Raymark Industries. A cornerstone of the business was the invention by the company founders of a woven brake lining.
That brake lining was popular and efficient, but it was also made with asbestos. From the use of asbestos followed illnesses in workers, and from that came lawsuits. The company faced many lawsuits, and during those cases discoveries were made that indicated Raymark knew at various points in its history that asbestos was harmful and it hid that fact from workers and consumers. The president of the company when it was called Raybestos was called out in particular for having denied knowledge of asbestos and its harms.
Today the Raybestos brand is owned by Brake Parts Inc, which continues to make and distribute a line of brakes and automotive parts under the name. The company is headquartered in McHenry, Illinois and makes a variety of brand name automotive parts. The brand name, although reminiscent of the mineral that caused so much harm, survived the scandals, the lawsuits, and the bankruptcy of the company.
Asbestos Use in Brakes
Raymark used asbestos in its brakes for decades, as early as the first part of the twentieth century. The brakes that the company made went into all kinds of vehicles too, from cars and trucks to heavy machinery and trains. Brakes generate a lot of friction and heat from parts rubbing against each other at high speed. That can lead to overheating and failed brakes, which is extremely dangerous. Brake linings need to prevent overheating, and asbestos is highly effective at doing so. This and the fact that asbestos was inexpensive and a common material, made it the obvious choice for so long. Even when company leaders knew that the asbestos could cause harm, they continued to use it to make brakes of the best quality.
Although the asbestos helped make Raybestos brakes as durable as they were known for, it also caused people to get sick from exposure. It is the tiny, microscopic particles in asbestos that can cause so much harm if inhaled or ingested. They stick in the body like needles instead of passing through, and they cause damage to tissue, particularly around the lungs. In some people, but not all, this can end up causing cancers like mesothelioma or lung cancer, or a scarring of the lungs called asbestosis.
Workers who were at risk of being exposed in this way and getting sick included those who worked making Raybestos brand brakes and brake linings. Handling, shaping, trimming, and grinding down the materials to make the parts would easily cause exposure. Also at risk was anyone who used the parts, including professional mechanics and amateur car enthusiasts. When a mechanic or amateur takes off the brakes to change them, dust that built up inside the lining is exposed and likely contains asbestos particles.
Because of this exposure, many lawsuits were filed against Raymark and the Raybestos products the company made. The company officially changed its name to Raymark in 1982 in an attempt to remove the stigma of asbestos. It also stopped using asbestos in the early 1980s, but the damage had already been done and lawsuits were already being filed and fought in court and in settlements.
Many individuals and groups brought cases against Raymark and won compensation, including a woman whose husband died from asbestosis after working for the company. There was also the case of the state of Connecticut, which won money in a trial against the company to recoup what it had spent cleaning up various Raybestos sites in the state. While Raymark fought aggressively against these kinds of lawsuits, even going so far as to countersue claimants, it ultimately was forced to pay out a lot of money to victims of asbestos exposure.
Bankruptcy and Asbestos Trust
Because of all those lawsuits, Raymark eventually filed for bankruptcy in 1989. The company had tried to spin off various companies in an attempt to protect assets from litigation, and this included the recreation of Raytech. That company also filed for bankruptcy in 1989 and the scheme did not work. It took many years for Raymark and Raybestos to come out of bankruptcy, which it ultimately did in 2001. Part of the agreement of reorganization was that the company had to create an asbestos trust for compensating victims. The Raytech Corporation Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust was created in 2000 and was funded with $52 million.
Raybestos Superfund Site
The damage caused by Raymark and its Raybestos product manufacturing did not end with individual cases of asbestos illnesses. The EPA issued citations because of the contamination of manufacturing sites, especially in Stratford, Connecticut. The company was found to have contaminated the soil and surrounding area with lead and other heavy metals, asbestos, chemical solvents, polychlorinated biphenyls, and many other toxic materials. The company had collected this toxic waste in shallow pools that held the waste for decades.
Studies of the area found that residents of Stratford had higher than average rates of certain cancers, including mesothelioma, especially in people under the age of 25. Mesothelioma is rare in young people, and this indicated that they had been exposed as children. The EPA and other organizations have tested the site repeatedly and declared that people in the area could be contaminated by toxic materials through inhalation, through the soil, through skin contact, and even from eating local seafood. Residential properties were also found to be contaminated. The Raymark Industries manufacturing site in Stratford has been listed by the EPA as a Superfund Site, and as of 2016 was in the final phase of cleanup.
Raybestos products are still well known in the automotive industry and the brand is still being sold, but it comes with a long history of negligence and harm to human health. The asbestos trust for Raybestos, Raymark, and Raytech is currently active and anyone who has a claim that the company caused or played a role in the development of an asbestos illness is able to make that claim and seek adequate compensation. If you believe you have a valid claim, talk to a lawyer that specializes in asbestos and mesothelioma.
Page edited by Dave Foster
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