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Western MacArthur

Known today as just MacArthur, Western MacArthur is an insulation company that was founded in 1967 with the merger of two older companies. The company today continues to make a variety of insulation products for use in both residential and commercial settings. Initially, and still today, the specialty of the company was pipe insulation.

As was common at the time, Western MacArthur used asbestos in its pipe insulation and many other products in the middle of the twentieth century. As regulations came from the federal government, the company stopped using the mineral, but the damage had already been done. The resulting illnesses in workers exposed to the asbestos led to lawsuits against the company, costly court fees and big settlements. Western MacArthur filed for bankruptcy over these costs in 2002 and reorganized and reopened in 2004.

About MacArthur

After reorganizing after a period of bankruptcy, the company reemerged as MacArthur Company. Today it still focuses on pipe insulation but also offers a wide range of other types of insulation and construction materials and products. These include mechanical insulation, waterproofing materials, siding and roofing for residential buildings, HVAC materials, and commercial roofing materials. The company is employee-owned and still headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Company History

Western MacArthur was founded in 1967, but it has roots that are much older. The company formed as a merger between two older insulation companies: MacArthur Company and Western Asbestos. MacArthur, as the company is now known today, was founded in 1913 and initially was just a small company based in St. Paul, Minnesota that made pipe insulation.

Like other makers of insulation and construction materials Western MacArthur used asbestos in its products for many years. The result was that workers for the company, workers in other industries that used the products, and even homeowners who used Western MacArthur building materials, were put at risk for asbestos exposure. Some developed related illnesses and sued the company for damages. The number and cost of lawsuits built up until Western MacArthur had no choice to file for bankruptcy. It did this while also forming a trust with $2 billion to compensate victims. Reorganized, the company emerged and began operating again in 2004.

Asbestos Use by Western MacArthur

Asbestos use in insulation and other building materials was common practice at the time that Western MacArthur was using it. Asbestos is a natural mineral with properties that make it well suited for the construction industry: it can be molded into any shape; it resists heat and electricity; it provides fireproofing; it is lightweight; and most importantly for insulation companies, it is very efficient at insulating.

Western MacArthur specialized in pipe insulation, which it made with asbestos, but it also made other insulation products and materials for the construction of residential and commercial facilities. Through the 1970s the company added asbestos to pipe insulation and pipe coverings, duct board and wraps, caulking, fire blankets, adhesives, roofing materials for residential and commercial buildings, and coatings.

Workers Exposed to Asbestos

Workers and even homeowners who worked with or near Western MacArthur products that contained asbestos were put at risk of exposure and resulting illnesses. Asbestos exposure can cause damage to tissues in the body that over decades can lead to the development of mesothelioma, asbestosis, and asbestos lung cancer. It is the small fibers that can easily flake away from asbestos that cause so much harm. The more asbestos or an asbestos-containing product is manipulated, the more likely it is to shed these harmful fibers that someone may then inhale.

Western MacArthur workers were put at risk by handling the asbestos that went into the products they made, but also just by being in the facility where asbestos was used. Workers in other industries were also at risk because they worked with the products that contained asbestos. Workers in the construction industry were among those most affected. Carpenters, drywall installers, insulation installers, laborers, roofers, painters, and many others were likely to have been exposed to asbestos by working with Western MacArthur products.

Also at risk were shipyard workers, maritime workers aboard ships, and U.S. Navy sailors and officers. Western MacArthur insulation was used heavily on both civilian commercial and Navy ships. Western MacArthur was instrumental in building a number of ships and in repairing existing ships, adding insulation to many parts of a ship.

Asbestos Litigation

Many years of using asbestos in construction and ship materials led to lawsuits against Western MacArthur. These were brought by workers who were exposed to asbestos and got sick and by families of those who died from asbestos illnesses. One example of such as case came from the widow of a man who worked for Western Asbestos before the 1967 merger with MacArthur. In 1977 he was diagnosed with asbestosis and mesothelioma and died in 1978. The case brought by his widow that year was one of the earliest against Western MacArthur, and it took her nearly ten years but she eventually won her case and got justice for her husband’s death.

Bankruptcy and Formation of Asbestos Trust

Cases against Western MacArthur were numerous and costly and eventually led the company to file for bankruptcy in order to survive. Thousands of lawsuits taxed the company’s assets and it filed for chapter 11 in 2002. The company emerged reorganized in 2004 as MacArthur Company. It was in a good position to be able to continue producing and selling insulation and building materials, but without the use of asbestos.

The bankruptcy agreement required that Western MacArthur start up an asbestos trust that would be used to compensate victims that came forward and would come forward in the future to claim the company was liable for an asbestos illness. The fund, called the Western Asbestos Settlement Trust, was created in 2004 and was funded with $2 billion. It is still active and accepting claims today.

Western MacArthur caused a lot of damage and harm to individuals and families by using asbestos in its products. Although it has paid out millions in settlements to victims, the money does little to make up for the losses that families have experienced. If you believe that these insulation or other products contributed to your case of mesothelioma, you can work with a lawyer to make a claim against the Western Asbestos Settlement Trust.

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