Western MacArthur used asbestos in pipe insulation and other products it manufactured. This led to lawsuits over asbestos exposure and illness. Western MacArthur filed for bankruptcy in 2002 and reorganized in 2004 with a trust fund to compensate claimants.
Western MacArthur History and Asbestos
Although Western MacArthur was founded in 1967, it has much older roots.
- The company formed as a merger between two older insulation companies, MacArthur Company and Western Asbestos. Founded in 1913, MacArthur Company was a small company that manufactured pipe insulation.
- Like other companies that manufactured insulation and construction materials, Western MacArthur used asbestos in its products through the late 1970s.
- As a result of their asbestos use, company employees and workers in other industries that used their products were potentially exposed to asbestos. Some developed related illnesses and sued the company for damages.
- Both Western Asbestos and the MacArthur Company distributed Johns Manville asbestos products. This added to the liabilities associated with Western MacArthur’s own asbestos insulation.
- The extraordinary legal expenses eventually caused Western MacArthur to file for bankruptcy. As part of the bankruptcy, MacArthur formed a $2 billion trust to compensate victims. The company emerged from bankruptcy in 2004.
- After a period of bankruptcy and reorganization, the company re-emerged as MacArthur Company. MacArthur is now an employee-owned company with headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Today, MacArthur continues to focus on pipe insulation but also offers a wide range of construction materials and products. These products include mechanical insulation, waterproofing materials, siding, roofing, and HVAC materials. MacArthur does not make products with asbestos today.
How Did Western MacArthur Use Asbestos?
Asbestos was once commonly used in insulation and other building materials. This natural mineral has properties that make it well-suited for the construction industry. For example, asbestos is lightweight and easily molded into a variety of shapes. It also resists heat and electricity.
Western MacArthur specialized in pipe insulation made with asbestos. Through the 1970s, the company added asbestos to:
- Pipe insulation
- Duct board
- Fire blankets
- Roofing materials
- Protective coatings
The company also made other insulation construction products for both residential and commercial facilities.
Western MacArthur distributed Johns Manville asbestos products to numerous industries. These products went into public and government buildings, schools, factories, chemical plants, and shipyards, and ships.
Who Was at Risk of Exposure to Western MacArthur Asbestos?
Many people who worked with or near Western MacArthur and Johns Manville products that contained asbestos risked exposure and resulting illnesses.
As asbestos breaks into sharp tiny fibers, it often becomes airborne, where it is easily inhaled by anyone nearby. As an asbestos-containing product is manipulated, it often sheds these harmful fibers.
Western MacArthur Employees
Western MacArthur workers were put at risk by handling asbestos used to manufacture its products. Workers in other industries were also at risk because they worked with the products that contained asbestos.
Workers in Other Industries
Construction workers were among those most affected by the asbestos products Western MacArthur distributed:
Also at risk were shipyard workers, maritime workers aboard ships, and U.S. Navy sailors and officers. Western MacArthur insulation was regularly used on both commercial and Navy ships. Western MacArthur was instrumental in building several ships and in repairing existing vessels.
Schoolteachers, government workers, and other people who worked in public buildings could also have been exposed to asbestos construction materials.
When those materials deteriorate, they contaminate the buildings, putting workers at risk. Maintenance and repair workers in these buildings were at higher risk of disturbing and inhaling asbestos fibers.
Homeowners and Secondhand Exposure
Homeowners with Western MacArthur or Johns Manville asbestos products in their homes faced and may still face exposure risks. This is especially true for anyone who does their own home repairs or remodeling without asbestos professionals.
Another group that faced exposure to Western MacArthur asbestos was the family of workers who handled their products. These workers often unknowingly brought fibers of asbestos home on their clothing, exposing family members. This is called secondhand asbestos exposure.
Asbestos Lawsuits Against Western MacArthur
Many years of asbestos use in construction and ship materials eventually resulted in lawsuits against Western MacArthur. These were brought by workers exposed to asbestos and by families of those who died from asbestos-related illnesses.
- One example is a case filed by a widow, Janice Hughes. Her husband worked for Western Asbestos before the 1967 merger with MacArthur. In 1977, he was diagnosed with asbestosis and mesothelioma. As a result of these illnesses, he died in 1978. It took his widow nearly ten years, but she eventually won her case.
- Another example came from Jack and Rose Kaminski in 1985. Jack worked at Bethlehem Shipyard in San Francisco in 1942 before enlisting in the U.S. Air Force. He was a ship fitter’s helper and used asbestos cloths while working with welders. He recalled the fabric tearing and releasing asbestos fibers. The Kaminskis sued several asbestos companies after Jack developed mesothelioma. They received a $500,000 jury award against Western MacArthur.
In 2022, Western MacArthur’s asbestos trust faced a lawsuit over wrongful death claims. Edward Darden died from asbestos illnesses after working in shipyards. His family sought compensation through the trust but was denied.
They took the case to court. A bankruptcy judge ruled that the family could not seek compensation from the trust. The trust was established to compensate people exposed to asbestos not family members of those victims.
Bankruptcy and Formation of Asbestos Trust
The numerous cases against Western MacArthur were costly and eventually resulted in bankruptcy. Thousands of lawsuits taxed the company’s assets, causing Western MacArthur to file for Chapter 11 in 2002. In 2004, the company emerged reorganized as MacArthur Company.
The bankruptcy agreement required Western MacArthur to fund an asbestos trust to compensate victims who claimed the company was liable for an asbestos illness. The fund is called the Western Asbestos Settlement Trust. The company funded it with $2 billion. It is still active and accepting claims today.
As of February 21, 2023, the payment percentage for Western MacArthur’s asbestos trust is 51.1%. This is a relatively high percentage compared to other asbestos trusts.
The 2020 annual report for the trust indicated that as of December 31, 2020, it contained assets worth nearly $500 million. Liabilities were listed as nearly $50 million.
What to Do if You Were Exposed to Western MacArthur Asbestos
If you believe insulation or other MacArthur or Johns Manville products contributed to your mesothelioma, contact an asbestos attorney. They can help you make a successful claim for compensation with the Western Asbestos Settlement Trust.
A lawyer will review your case for free. They can find all companies responsible for your asbestos exposure and illness. You could be eligible for another trust or to file a lawsuit against any companies without trusts.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.