Rock Wool Manufacturing Company
The Rock Wool Manufacturing Company is based in Leeds, Alabama and since the 1940s has been making and distributing a variety of insulation products used in industrial, residential, and maritime settings. As the company grew it increased its product lineup, and for a few decades these products were made with asbestos.
The use of asbestos made the company’s insulation products durable and effective, but it also caused a number of workers, probably thousands to get ill from exposure to asbestos. Ultimately the pile up of these lawsuits forced Rock Wool to seek bankruptcy protection and to create a trust that would be used to compensate asbestos victims. The company emerged from bankruptcy and saw success again beginning in 1999.
About Rock Wool Manufacturing
Rock Wool Manufacturing Company Inc. is a successful and large company that specializes in making and selling insulation products, mostly under the Delta brand. The industries that the company serves include industrial, residential, commercial, and marine. Products can be tailored to each industry and are all related to insulation. Products include mineral board, metal mesh blankets, lamella, sound proofing and fireproofing board, safing board, deck plugs, marine board, and a variety of pipe insulation products
The history of Rock Wool dates back to its founding in Leeds, Alabama, where the company is still headquartered, in 1943. The company started out making blown wool insulation, but by the 1950s it had expanded on this and began making a variety of types of insulation using different materials. Products included board insulation, blown insulation, and insulating cements. Later the company would introduce a range of pipe insulation products.
Between about 1958 and 1970, a period of more than a decade, Rock Wool used asbestos in its cement products. It also used asbestos in insulation for an even longer period of time, ending the practice in 1980 when the company continued making insulation but with different materials and ingredients. The use of asbestos in all of its products led to exposure in workers that ultimately caused illnesses and a flood of lawsuits against Rock Wool. Because of this the company had to file for bankruptcy protection in 1996 in order to survive. This was followed by reorganization and the establishment of an asbestos trust for victims. The company still exists today and serves industrial, commercial, marine, and residential industries.
Asbestos use in insulation was not unusual during the time period in which Rock Wool used it. Asbestos has been mined and used for millennia because it was discovered early on that it excelled at insulating and fireproofing. Additionally, asbestos is abundant and inexpensive, durable, and lightweight. For insulation, in addition to being able to insulate effectively, asbestos is useful because it is easy to mold and shape it into a number of shapes for different products.
Rock Wool used asbestos in many of its insulation products, but two well-known products were documented as having contained asbestos: One Shot Insulating Cement and Delta Maid Cement. Other cements made by the company are likely to have contained asbestos and were largely used for pipe insulation, among other applications.
Thousands of people were put at risk for asbestos exposure simply because of these few products. Workers in Rock Wool’s manufacturing facilities were among those put at risk because they handled the asbestos to put it into products or they were in the area where asbestos was being used and handled. The more asbestos is handled and manipulated, the more it is likely to shed fibers. These fibers are what make asbestos so harmful. They are tiny and lightweight and become part of the dust in the air and on surfaces. When ingested or inhaled they cause damage that will lead to diagnoses of cancer or asbestosis in some people, but not all.
In addition to the workers for Rock Wool, those in other industries that worked with their products were also put at risk and were likely to be exposed. Construction workers of all types were most often affected, but also maritime workers, shipyard and Naval workers, workers in industrial plants, power plants, factories, boiler rooms, petroleum refineries, and a variety of other workplace settings could have handled and been exposed to Rock Wool insulation that caused them to get sick.
Rock Wool saw thousands of lawsuits over the asbestos in their products and the illnesses that exposure to it caused. It was able to dismiss some, but many either ended in settlements or went to trial with the jury finding in favor of the asbestos victims. One example of the latter occurred in 1994 when seven former shipyard workers sued Rock Wool and other asbestos product companies. The seven workers developed either asbestosis or lung cancer after working with asbestos-containing materials for years. The court found in their favor and assigned part of the liability for their illnesses to Rock Wool.
In another case, in 1995 a man named Samuel Jackson, along with his wife, filed a suit against Rock Wool and other companies that made asbestos materials. He worked for years in a power plant in North Carolina where he had to work with and around insulation and other materials that contained asbestos. He later developed mesothelioma and his successful suit assigned part of the blame to Rock Wool. These two lawsuits were just a couple of thousands of lawsuits that cost Rock Wool a lot of money and eventually led it to file for bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy and Asbestos Trust
After facing thousands of these lawsuits, fighting against them, and ultimately being forced to pay settlements and damages to victims, Rock Wool Manufacturing was in a difficult spot. Courts were finding that the company was liable for illnesses because it failed to warn workers and customers that the asbestos in their products could make them sick. As a result the company filed for bankruptcy in 1996 and reorganized in 1999. This included the establishment of an asbestos trust, called the Rock Wool Manufacturing Company Asbestos Trust, funded to pay victims. The trust is administered alongside others and so is not always open for claims.
If you have a claim to make against Rock Wool for asbestos exposure and mesothelioma or another illness, consult with an asbestos lawyer who can help you determine if the trust is prepared to pay out claims at this time. The lawyer can also help you figure out what to do next if the trust is not active when you are ready to make a claim. The company has been shown to be liable for asbestos illnesses, so you should be allowed to seek and win compensation.
Page edited by Dave Foster
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