Combustion Engineering

Expert Fact Checked

This page was legally reviewed by Jennifer Lucarelli. For information on our content creation and review process read our editorial guidelines. If you notice an error or have comments or questions on our content please contact us.

Jennifer Lucarelli Lawyer and Legal Advisor

Combustion Engineering made and sold asbestos products to companies countrywide. Many machinists and others who worked with its asbestos-insulated boilers have developed mesothelioma. Asbestos attorneys can help victims file claims against the company’s trust fund.

01. History of Asbestos Use

Combustion Engineering History of Asbestos Use

For more than 40 years, Combustion Engineering made steam boilers with asbestos insulation. Its history of asbestos use resulted in hundreds of thousands of lawsuits. The company’s asbestos liabilities ultimately pushed it into bankruptcy. In 2006, it finalized a plan to establish an asbestos trust fund to pay all current and future claims.

Quick Facts
  • Years in Operation: 1914 – 2015
  • Location: Stamford, Connecticut
  • Production: Boilers
  • Asbestos Trust: Yes

Established in 1914, Combustion Engineering began making boilers in the 1930s. The company insulated their boilers, in some cases several stories tall, with asbestos. It sold these systems to other companies throughout the country. Machinists and other people who worked on and around the boilers faced asbestos exposure risks.

During the twentieth century, companies often put asbestos in insulation. Asbestos is a heat-resistant mineral, useful for heat-generating products like boilers. Combustion Engineering is just one of many companies that manufactured asbestos products.

Combustion Engineering struggled through its early years as an asbestos company, which coincided with the Great Depression. But World War II reversed its fortunes. The company aided the war effort by focusing on the production of boilers for transportation steamships. Merchant Marines working around boilers on these ships may have experienced asbestos exposure.

Starting in the 1960s, asbestos victims began filing lawsuits against Combustion Engineering. People claimed exposure to asbestos from the company’s products led them to develop mesothelioma, lung cancer and other asbestos diseases.

In 1989, amid a steady increase in lawsuits, Combustion Engineering became a subsidiary of a Swiss company called ABB Ltd. In February 2003, Combustion Engineering filed for bankruptcy. The previous year alone, asbestos victims had filed more than 79,000 lawsuits against the company.

The company emerged from bankruptcy with a trust fund to handle all current and future asbestos claims. In 2015, General Electric (GE) purchased Combustion Engineering and folded it into GE Power.

As it stands, GE Power owns the company’s technology and offers repairs for Combustion Engineering boilers.

02. Asbestos Products

Combustion Engineering Asbestos Products

Beginning in the 1930s, Combustion Engineering began making boilers insulated with asbestos. Production continued through the 1960s. Awareness of the dangers asbestos posed to human health continued to grow during this time.

Despite troubling medical evidence, Combustion Engineering and other companies continued to use asbestos to insulate products. Eventually, its production of asbestos products stopped, but many of its older boilers may still be in use.

Combustion Engineering Products Containing Asbestos

List of Products Containing Asbestos
Product Name Start Year End Year
Combustion Engineering Block Stick 1963 1972
Combustion Engineering Boilers
Combustion Engineering Buck Stay Cement A- 1360 1965 1966
Combustion Engineering Calcrete Insulating Cement 1964 1970
Combustion Engineering Castablock Insulating Cement 1965 1966
Combustion Engineering Expansion Joint Hat 1963 1966
Combustion Engineering Fibrous Adhesive 1964 1965
Combustion Engineering Gunisul 1963 1966
Combustion Engineering Hilite Insulating Cement 1964 1968
Combustion Engineering Kaiser Hard Top Insulating Cement 1964 1972
Combustion Engineering Kaiser M Block Insulation 1959 1972
Combustion Engineering Lite Wate 22 1969 1972
Combustion Engineering Lite Wate 50 1969 1972
Combustion Engineering MHD Finishing Cement 1964 1968
Combustion Engineering Mix A 1963 1972
Combustion Engineering Permiseal Weathercoating 1964 1975
Combustion Engineering Pyroscat Fireproofing Cement 1964 1972
Combustion Engineering SDK 50 Cement 1963 1966
Combustion Engineering Stick-Tite Insulating Cement 1963 1972
Combustion Engineering Super 711 Insulating Cement 1964 1972
Combustion Engineering Super Finish Insulating Cement 1965 1968
Combustion Engineering Super Finish Stick-Tite Insulating Cement 1963 1972
Combustion Engineering Super Stick-Tite Insulating Cement 1963 1972
Combustion Engineering Utility Thermal Finish Cement 1964 1972
Combustion Engineering WeatherKote Protective Air-Check Cement 1963 1971
Combustion Engineering WeatherKote Protective Coating 1963 1977
Combustion Engineering WeatherKote Protective Duriseal 1964 1973
Combustion Engineering WeatherKote Protective Thermal Coat 1964
03. Occupational Exposure

Combustion Engineering and Occupational Exposure

People working at jobsites with Combustion Engineering boilers may have experienced occupational asbestos exposure. The company’s boilers were used at a wide range of jobsites throughout the country. In these settings, people often inhaled asbestos dust, which can lead to the development of mesothelioma.

The Combustion Engineering trust fund lists thousands of jobsites and ships. Companies with jobsites that used Combustion Engineering boilers ranged from CertainTeed Corporation to General Motors to Johns-Manville. Many shipping companies like Bethlehem Steel, Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Company and Ingalls Shipyard also used their boilers.

The company’s boilers were also present at many military bases and other military buildings, including:

Veterans and military personnel at these locations may have been exposed to asbestos from Combustion Engineering boilers.

Some workers, like mechanics who performed repair work, may have faced higher levels and frequencies of exposure. But any level of asbestos exposure is dangerous. In some cases, workers may also have carried asbestos dust home on their clothes or in their hair. Household members exposed to asbestos secondhand may also develop asbestos diseases.

Occupations Impacted by Combustion Engineering’s Asbestos Use

04. Asbestos Litigation

Asbestos Litigation Against Combustion Engineering

Combustion Engineering was first named in an asbestos lawsuit in the 1960s. For the next 40 years, the company faced upwards of a billion dollars in asbestos liabilities. Leading up to its 2003 bankruptcy filing, Combustion Engineering’s parent company marked $940 million to cover expected legal costs.

Some cases against Combustion Engineering have resulted in settlements. A settlement is an agreement where a company pays an asbestos victim an agreed-upon sum to end the lawsuit. For example, in 1988 Combustion Engineering settled a case brought by a Bethlehem Steel worker who died from asbestos cancer.

Most of the time, asbestos settlements are private agreements. In general, compensation amounts are not available to the public. However, industry experts calculate that the average mesothelioma settlement is between $1 million and $1.4 million.

Asbestos lawsuits that go to trial may result in jury verdicts. In 2002, a court of appeals affirmed a $1.05 million mesothelioma verdict in favor of a machinist’s widow. Her husband worked on Combustion Engineering boilers at a Wisconsin Electric Power Company plant. Evidence presented at trial showed the presence of asbestos dust clouds in the area around the boilers.

Post-bankruptcy, asbestos legal actions no longer go through the court system but are processed by the company’s asbestos trust fund.

05. Asbestos Trust Fund

Combustion Engineering Asbestos Trust Fund

In 2006, Combustion Engineering placed $1.24 billion into a trust fund to pay out asbestos claims. This type of trust fund is created by a company projected to buckle under the asbestos lawsuits it faces. This creates a legal structure to guarantee some compensation to all current and future claimants.

The current payment percentage for successful claims is 18.5%.

The trust fund is officially titled the Combustion Engineering 524(g) Asbestos PI Trust. In 2022 alone, the trust paid out more than 14,000 claims. Factors like a victim’s age, occupation, disease severity and a firm’s settlement history can all affect a claim’s final payout.

Asbestos attorneys are available to help file claims and explore additional options for compensation.