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Riley Stoker Corporation

Riley Stoker was a company founded in the 1890s that made boilers and related equipment. The company passed through several hands and was acquired by various other companies over the years and is now a subsidiary of Babcock Power, Inc., a U.S.-based international company that focuses on environmental and energy services.

Because boilers are operated at very high temperatures, Riley Stoker used asbestos in its products for many decades. Although the company never actually manufactured components or parts with the harmful mineral, it did use asbestos-containing materials made by other companies in their products. This put workers at risk of exposure and resulting mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis. A previous owner, Ashland, Inc., spent years battling lawsuits over asbestos exposure before selling the subsidiary.

About Riley Stoker

The Riley Stoker Corporation was founded in 1890 in Worcester, Massachusetts. From the very beginning, the company was a maker of industrial scale boilers and related products and parts. The company has been bought and acquired multiple times over the years, but it is still a maker and designer of boilers and is still headquartered in Worcester, Massachusetts. Since its earliest days and continuing today, Riley Stoker has made boilers and firing equipment for use in industrial settings and for a variety of fuels: gas, coal, oil, and waste fuels like wood, refuse, and cellulose.

Before liability over asbestos use in these boiler products was well known, Riley Stoker was bought by Ashland, Inc., a large company that originally dealt in oil, but which now specializes in chemicals of all types. In 1990 Ashland sold Riley Stoker, but not before facing lawsuits over asbestos exposure. Today, Riley Stoker is known as Riley Power and is a subsidiary of Babcock Power, a company that offers services, engineering, equipment, and technology for power generation, steam generators, and heat exchangers. Riley Stoker survived as a subsidiary despite the lawsuits over workers who connected their asbestos-related illnesses to boilers and parts provided by the company.

Asbestos Use by Riley Stoker

Asbestos use in boilers and boiler components was not unusual at the time that Riley Stoker made use of the mineral in its products. Asbestos is a natural mineral that is mined from the earth and that has been recognized for over a thousand years for its unique properties. One of these is the ability to insulate effectively. For this reason, as well as the fact that asbestos is lightweight and flexible and can be molded to a variety of shapes, it was prized for use in high-temperature industries and others. In boilers, the asbestos could be used to insulate and prevent heat loss as well as to strengthen materials that would be heated to very high temperatures.

Riley Stoker did not manufacture its boilers with asbestos, but it did use components made by other companies in its boilers. Some of those parts contained asbestos. In addition to providing insulation for the boilers, the parts with asbestos protected workers by providing fireproofing. Unfortunately what was not known until later was that this asbestos caused more harm than good in many workers. In addition to the boilers of the Riley Stoker brand, the company’s heat exchangers, packing materials, and gaskets may also have contained asbestos.

Worker Exposure to Asbestos

Asbestos was long used to protect people against heat and fire, but it was eventually discovered that this mineral caused more harm than it provided protection. The problem is that the mineral is made up of tiny fibers that act like microscopic needles. When inhaled or ingested, these fibers can get stuck in tissues in the body, causing damage over many years that ultimately causes illness in some people. Why this doesn’t cause illness in everyone is not well understood.

If asbestos is well contained, it will not cause this harm, but it is easy for the fibers to come loose and to cause exposure. This is especially true for workers who handled asbestos or asbestos-containing materials. Riley Stoker workers who assembled boilers were likely to have handled the asbestos parts and could have disturbed the mineral, causing fibers to loosen resulting in exposure.

Riley Stoker workers were not the only ones put at risk because of asbestos in the boilers. Any who worked with the boilers in other facilities, largely industrial workers, could also have been exposed. Boiler workers and operators, maintenance workers, workers who repaired or replaced the boilers or its parts, were all at risk of being exposed to asbestos. Over time the asbestos in Riley Stoker boilers could have deteriorated and become exposed, at which time, fibers may have come loose and led to inhalation by workers.

Lawsuits over Asbestos and Illnesses

Workers, whether for Riley Stoker or another industrial company that operated Riley Stoker boilers, that were exposed to asbestos were at risk for later developing serious, asbestos-related illnesses. These include not just mesothelioma, but also lung cancer and a progressive lung scarring called asbestosis. Many of these workers were never warned that they were working with a material that could cause so much harm. Getting diagnosed decades later came as a devastating shock and many felt they were owed an explanation and compensation for their medical bills, pain, and suffering.

As a result of the use of asbestos in Riley Stoker products, Ashland, the parent company, first began seeing lawsuits over exposure in the 1980s. Although Ashland was not involved in the making of the asbestos-containing boilers, the company became liable for them when it purchased Riley Stoker. The claims against Riley Stoker were not as numerous as those against some other companies that used asbestos more heavily. Still, Ashland faced hundreds of lawsuits from workers who got sick. The company was successful in having many of these claims dismissed, when evidence of the cause of illness was limited. However, it did have to settle several of them, many of which were not settled until the 2000s. Some claims may still open up as more people get diagnosed with asbestos illnesses.

If you believe that you were exposed to asbestos because of boilers made and distributed by Riley Stoker, you may have a case to make a claim and to get compensation. Contact an experienced mesothelioma and asbestos lawyer to help you determine what step to take next.

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