Bankruptcy settlement includes $75 million trust for sailors exposed to asbestos
A major supplier of asbestos-containing equipment for the U.S. Navy has emerged from bankruptcy protection and can begin processing more than 1,300 claims filed by veterans with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
The Chapter 11 reorganization of Leslie Control, Inc., a Tampa-based manufacturer of gaskets and valves used in military and merchant ships from the 1940s until the 1980s, includes a $75 million trust fund for sailors harmed by asbestos.
The company sought bankruptcy protection in 2010, citing more than 1,300 asbestos-related personal injury claims. The trust was created in 2011 by Leslie’s parent company, CIRCOR International, in an effort to “permanently resolve” the claims, which cost the company more than $54 million between 2006 and 2009.
The military was a major user of asbestos because of the material’s resistance to heat and fire. Some of the equipment that contained asbestos were brakes, gaskets, valves, adhesives and floor and pipe covering, called lagging.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Navy personnel in particular were exposed to asbestos-containing material, or ACM, in shipyards and ships that were built before the mid-1970s, when the government started regulating asbestos use. According to the VA, service members at the greatest risk of exposure include:
• Veterans on ships whose keels were laid before 1983;
• Vets who worked in shipyards from the 1930s through the 1990s;
• Personnel who worked below deck before the 1990s
• Vets who removed and replaced damaged lagging in engine rooms, often with no protective equipment;
• Pipefitters, welders, boiler operators, demolition and building renovation specialists who worked in any service before the mid-1990s.
Asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma, a rare and invariably fatal cancer of the lining of the lung and abdomen. The disease is usually diagnosed years or even decades after asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma kills 2,000-3,000 people each year, and the number of cases is expected to rise until at least 2018.
According to CIRCOR, the $75 million fund was the result of negotiations with an asbestos claimants committee and an independent representative of future claimants.
The company nonetheless denies that gaskets and valves made by Leslie caused asbestos-related illness, claiming the known carcinogen “was encapsulated inside the products and did not create any ambient exposure to asbestos particles.”