Cleaver-Brooks Company

Expert Fact Checked

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Jennifer Lucarelli Lawyer and Legal Advisor

Cleaver-Brooks Company was founded in 1929. It used asbestos in its boilers and boiler parts for nearly five decades. The company has faced many lawsuits for its asbestos use. People who develop an asbestos disease after exposure to Cleaver-Brooks asbestos products may be eligible for compensation.

01. History of Asbestos Use

Cleaver-Brooks Company History of Asbestos Use

John Cleaver first began selling boilers in 1929 after he successfully designed a portable steam-powered boiler to heat asphalt. His company was founded as the John Cleaver Company but would later become the Cleaver-Brooks Company.

Quick Facts
  • Years in Operation: 1929 – Present
  • Location: Thomasville, Georgia
  • Production: Boilers
  • Asbestos Trust: No

Cleaver’s portable boilers were in high demand as the booming automotive industry required paved roads. Cleaver’s boilers attracted the attention of businessman Raymond Brooks. In 1931, the two men formed the Cleaver-Brooks Company. That year, the pair sold 40 boilers and moved the company from Illinois to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. These machines were initially manufactured by Reliance Boiler Works.

Cleaver-Brooks boilers contained asbestos for heat resistance, durability and strength. Asbestos was important for boilers because the machines operated in high-heat environments.

In 1939, Cleaver-Brooks took over the manufacturing of its boilers from Reliance Boiler Works. It also manufactured asbestos-containing replacement parts for its products. Shortly after taking over production, Cleaver-Brooks halted commercial manufacturing to aid in supplying the war effort. The company produced:

  • Floating cargo carriers
  • Portable washing machines
  • Showers
  • Sterilizers

These products were manufactured in the same plants as the asbestos-containing boilers. As a result, they may have been contaminated with asbestos fibers, exposing veterans to the mineral.

The company continued to grow throughout the 1940s and 1950s and eventually moved its main manufacturing plant to Pennsylvania in 1957. As the company grew, it began producing larger boilers that could burn heavier oils than competitors. These products were also made with asbestos fibers.

Records and testimony indicate the company stopped using asbestos within its products in the early 1980s. It was named in its first asbestos-related lawsuit around the same time.

Today, the company continues to be involved in asbestos litigation stemming from its past use of the mineral. The company is still in operation and employs hundreds of people worldwide.

02. Asbestos Products

Cleaver-Brooks Company Asbestos Products

Records indicate Cleaver-Brooks used asbestos in its goods from the 1930s to the early 1980s. Like many manufacturers at the time, Cleaver-Brooks used the additive in its products to increase heat resistance, fire resistance, durability and strength.

Some asbestos products used and manufactured by Cleaver-Brooks include:

The use of these products exposed workers to dangerous asbestos fibers.

03. Occupational Exposure

Cleaver-Brooks Company and Occupational Exposure

Cleaver-Brooks employees between 1930 and 1980 may have experienced occupational asbestos exposure. This includes employees who worked in the manufacturing plants and anyone who installed or maintained the boilers.

Cleaver-Brooks employees may have been exposed to asbestos at any of the company’s early locations, including:

  • Lebanon, Pennsylvania
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Oregon, Illinois

Assembling, installing or maintaining the boilers could disturb the asbestos-containing components. The microscopic asbestos fibers may then be inhaled, leading to asbestos diseases like mesothelioma.

Cleaver-Brooks products manufactured after the early 1980s no longer contained asbestos. However, people may still be exposed to asbestos through older boilers. Asbestos-containing boilers may be found in older homes, schools and buildings.

Cleaver-Brooks boilers were also used by the military. Veterans and military workers may also have been exposed to asbestos through the company’s products.

Occupations Impacted by Cleaver-Brooks' Asbestos Use

The family members and loved ones of asbestos workers may also have been at risk of exposure. Workers who encounter asbestos may unknowingly bring home asbestos fibers on their hair, clothing or belongings. This can lead to secondary exposure for family members.

04. Asbestos Litigation

Asbestos Litigation Against Cleaver-Brooks Company

Since the 1980s, Cleaver-Brooks has faced asbestos-related lawsuits. The company may have exposed many former employees and others to asbestos through its past use of the mineral.

For example, in 2014, a New York appellate court upheld a verdict in favor of a deceased boiler worker and his spouse. The worker encountered Cleaver-Brooks boilers while serving at McConnell Air Force Base between 1974 and the 1990s. During this time, he removed the asbestos-containing boilers from the Air Force base. The jury awarded the widow $980,000 for her loss. Liability was split between Cleaver-Brooks, the Air Force base and Johns-Manville.

While some cases may go to trial, asbestos companies may choose to settle with plaintiffs out of court. This was the case for a steamfitter who developed mesothelioma after experiencing asbestos exposure from Cleaver-Brooks, Burnham Corporation and William Powell Company products. The jury found Cleaver-Brooks 30% liable, and it settled with the steamfitter’s widow for an undisclosed sum.

Today, Cleaver-Brooks continues to be named in asbestos-related lawsuits and the company compensates all successful asbestos claims filed against it with its own funds.