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Congoleum Corporation was founded in 1886 by Michael Nairn in Kirkcaldy, Scotland. It was once the largest linoleum producer in the world. As the company grew, it utilized asbestos materials in its flooring products. Congoleum Corporation halted production of asbestos products in the 1980s after facing several lawsuits due to exposure from its asbestos-containing floor tiles.

01. History of Asbestos Use

Congoleum History of Asbestos Use

Quick Facts
  • Years in Operation: 1886 – present
  • Location: Mercerville, New Jersey
  • Production: Flooring
  • Asbestos Trust: Yes

The Nairn family emigrated to the United States in 1886 to grow Congoleum after operating a factory in Kirkcaldy, Scotland since the mid-1800s. Upon establishing the company in Kearny, New Jersey, they began manufacturing linoleum flooring, which was more durable and easier to clean than canvas floorcloths. In the early 1900s, the Nairn Linoleum Co. merged with a supplier in Pennsylvania who manufactured Congoleum, a simulated wood grain product used to border area rugs and linoleum. The flooring that Congoleum manufactured in the United States, including their wood grain products, vinyl flooring, asphalt tile and sheet flooring, contained asbestos fibers that left their employees and consumers at risk.

From 1947 to 1983, Congoleum frequently used asbestos in their flooring products. During this time, asbestos materials were used for their durability, especially on surfaces like flooring that are highly trafficked. However, these materials can become broken down or disturbed due to wear and tear or cutting and sanding of the product, which can result in fibers being released into the atmosphere. Exposure to these fibers cause asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.

Asbestos use in the United States slowed down by 1980, and the company instead relied on alternative flooring materials. Today, the company’s products on the market are FloorScore certified, meaning they abide by air quality regulations regarding toxic and harmful substances like asbestos. Although they stopped using asbestos materials in their flooring, Congoleum’s wide history of use exposed thousands of employees and consumers.

02. Asbestos Products

Congoleum Asbestos Products

Congoleum ProductsCongoleum is one of the biggest flooring manufacturers in the United States and manufactured millions of products since their inception. Dozens of these flooring products contained asbestos, including asphalt tile, vinyl asbestos tile and sheet flooring with asbestos felt.

The company used asbestos in their products for about four decades. Because the products were so popular and used in homes, schools and other buildings, many people have potentially been exposed. For homes and buildings that have not been updated, old Congoleum products may still pose a risk if damaged or worn from old age.

Congoleum Products Containing Asbestos
List of Products Containing Asbestos

Product Name Start Year End Year
Asbestos Tiles 1959 1975
Asphalt Tiles 1959 1971
Builderflor 1978 1980
Commercial Vinyl Flooring 1974 1977
Cushioned Inlaid Vinyl 1970 1973
Cushioned Vinyl 1970 1980
Cushioned Vinyl 1974 1977
Commercial Vinyl Flooring 1974 1977
Cushionflor 1978 1980
Cushionflor 1981 1983
Cushionflor Supreme 1970 1980
Cushionflor Supreme 1974 1983
Dynasty 1981 1983
Dynasty Vinyl 1978 1980
Fashionflor 1981 1983
Fashionflor Cushioned Inlaid Vinyl 1970 1973
Fashionflor Cushioned Vinyl 1974 1977
Firechek Bulletin Board Cork 1962
Flor-Ever 1981 1983
Flor-Ever Commercial Vinyl 1978 1980
Flor-Ever Deluxe Vinyl 1959 1969
Flor-Ever Commercial Vinyl 1978 1980
Flor-Ever Vinyl 1959 1960
Flor-Ever Vinyl Tile 1959
Flor-Ever Vinyl Top 1959 1960
Gold Seal Asphalt Tile 1952 1958
Gold Seal Nairon Custom Tile 1956 1958
Gold Seal Nairon Deluxe 1957 1958
Gold Seal Nairon Standard 1955 1958
Gold Seal Nairon Standard Tile 1956 1958
Gold Seal Vinyl Inlaids 1952 1958
Gold Seal Vinyl Nairon Standard 1957 1958
Gold Seal Vinyl Tile 1952 1955
Gold Seal Vinylbest Tile 1954 1958
Highlight 1981 1983
Highlight Cushioned Vinyl 1978 1980
Highlight Cushioned Vinyl 1974 1977
Inlaid Cushion Vinyl 1978 1980
Inlaid Vinyl 1965 1969
Inlaid Vinyl 1970 1973
Luxury Cushioned Vinyl 1965 1969
Nairn Asphalt Tile 1947 1951
Nairn Custom Tiffany Vinyl Tile 1959
Nairn Custom Vinyl Dynasty Tiles and Tile Inserts 1959
Nairn Custom Vinyl Tile 1959 1962
New Dimension Cushioned Vinyl 1974 1977
Pacemaker 1974 1983
Pacemaker Cushioned Vinyl 1970 1980
Pacemaker Cushioned Vinyl 1974 1977
Pavillion 1981 1983
Peerless Cushioned Vinyl 1981 1983
Peerless Cushioned Vinyl 1974 1977
Prestige 1974 1983
Profile 1981 1983
Reflection 1974 1983
Reflection 2 1974 1977
Sequin 1955 1958
Solid Seal Vinyl Inlaids 1952 1955
Spacemaker Seamless Cushioned Vinyl 1978 1980
Spacemaker Wide Width 1974 1977
Spring 1974 1983
Spring Luxury Cushioned Vinyl 1970 1980
Spring Luxury Cushioned Vinyl 1974 1977
Textured Inlaid Vinyl 1965 1965
The Now Floor Cushioned Vinyl 1974 1977
Ultraflor 1981 1983
Ultraflor Esteem 1978 1980
Ultraflor Esteem 1981 1983
Ultraflor Imperial 1981 1983
Ultraflor Majestic 1978 1980
Ultraflor Majestic 1981 1983
Ultraflor Regal 1978 1980
Ultraflor Regal 1981 1983
Villager 1981 1983
Villager Vinyl 1978 1980
Vinyl Asbestos Tile 1954 1972
Vinyl Cushioned 1974 1977
Vinyl Cushionflor 1970 1980
Vinyl Cushionflor 1974 1983
Vinylbest 1969 1975
Vinylbest Tile 1959 1962

03. Occupational Exposure

Congoleum and Occupational Exposure

Due to the widespread use of asbestos in vinyl flooring throughout the 1900s, thousands of workers at Congoleum may have been exposed to asbestos. Workers also put their families at risk of secondary asbestos exposure, which occurs when workers bring home asbestos fibers on their hair or clothing. In the home, harmful asbestos fibers can also be released when homeowners complete do-it-yourself projects, such as replacing outdated Congoleum flooring.

Occupations Impacted by Congoleum's Asbestos Use
04. Asbestos Litigation

Asbestos Litigation Against Congoleum

Since Congoleum produced many asbestos flooring products, employees and others began to speak out about illnesses caused by asbestos exposure. Congoleum Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1993 due to asbestos exposure claims. Although the company did label their materials to indicate a presence of asbestos, workers and consumers weren’t truly aware of the risks they could face when cutting, sanding or wearing down flooring. This resulted in a series of lawsuits against the corporation. If you believe you or a loved one was exposed, learn how a mesothelioma lawyer can help.

One such case came in 1996 when Robert Ehret, a floor covering contractor, filed a lawsuit against Congoleum and other flooring manufacturers. Ehret was diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos from several flooring manufacturers. Ehret claimed his disease was caused by flooring he installed, removed and sanded 20 – 30 years prior to being diagnosed with mesothelioma.

While Congoleum tried to deny their involvement in Ehret’s exposure and blamed other manufacturers, the judge refused to dismiss the case. Ultimately, the jury assigned Congoleum 25% fault, and 12.5% each to the other companies involved, including Armstrong, Amtico, Azrock, Mannington, Flintkote and Kentile. Ehret died during the trial, but his family was awarded a total of $3.3 million in damages, $817,896 of which was awarded from Congoleum.

Since these lawsuits, Congoleum Corporation has established an asbestos trust fund to settle thousands of claims. Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy also allowed the company to propose a reorganization plan for the business.

05. Asbestos Trust Fund

Congoleum Asbestos Trust Fund

Although the company filed for bankruptcy in 1993, Congoleum Corporation’s trust fund was not established until 2010, when the reorganization plan was approved. The Congoleum Plan Trust was initially funded with $270 million to settle lawsuits for mesothelioma victims and other personal injury cases.

As of January 1, 2019, the Congoleum Plan Trust Distribution Procedures established average values for claims involving specific diseases, including mesothelioma, that account for inflation.

Disease Average Value
Mesothelioma (Level VIII) $139,800
Lung Cancer (Level VII) $45,800
Lung Cancer 2 (Level VI) $12,300
Other Cancer (Level V) $15,000
Severe Asbestosis (Level IV) $37,000

The figures provided for payouts reflect base-level values. Actual values may be higher based on a claimant’s specific case. Factors including, but not limited to, age, exposure, type and firm settlement history are all taken into account during a lawsuit.