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William Painter founded Crown Cork & Seal Company in 1892. The company began as a beer and soda packaging business in Baltimore, Maryland. Crown Cork & Seal products were asbestos-free, but a 1963 acquisition led to the company integrating into the asbestos business.

Crown Cork & Seal Company acquired Mundet Cork Company, a manufacturer of bottle caps that used asbestos within its insulation division. While Crown Cork did not manufacture or sell the asbestos-containing insulation products, the company is legally responsible for Mundet’s asbestos business as its parent company. As a result, Crown Cork & Seal has been named in thousands of asbestos lawsuits and continues to compensate victims with its own funds.


01. History of Asbestos Use

Crown Cork & Seal Company History of Asbestos Use

Quick Facts
  • Years in Operation: 1892 – present
  • Location: Yardley, Pennsylvania
  • Production: Packaging
  • Asbestos Trust: No

Crown Cork & Seal Company was founded in 1892 by William Painter. That year, he patented the “crown cork,” also known as the modern-day metal bottle cap. The bottle cap was quickly accepted by manufacturers and served as the foundation for the company’s growth over the next century.

By 1906, the company was successful and expanded internationally, opening locations in Asia, Europe and South America. Crown Cork & Seal grew steadily throughout the 20th century due to product innovations, such as a lightweight aerosol can for food and other markets. Crown Cork & Seal also acquired several companies, further expanding its product offerings.

In 1963, Crown Cork & Seal became involved in the asbestos industry. At the time, Crown Cork & Seal was the United State’s largest producer of metal bottle caps. Mundet Cork Company was also a manufacturer of “crown cork” bottle caps. Crown Cork & Seal acquired a controlling interest of Mundet stock, enabling it to exercise control over Mundet.

In addition to its bottle cap business, Mundet also had an insulation division. This section of the company manufactured, sold and installed asbestos insulation products, including pipe and block insulation and asbestos cement.

Mundet manufactured and sold asbestos insulation to oil refineries, such as Standard Oil Company, and the United States military from 1950 until 1963. Metal and industrial workers at the refineries who installed and worked on asbestos insulation were often exposed to airborne asbestos fibers when cutting and sawing into the material.

From 1963 until 1966, Crown Cork & Seal owned a controlling majority of Mudent stock. Crown Cork & Seal opted to sell Mundet’s insulation division 93 days after the acquisition. By 1966, Crown Cork & Seal had purchased the entirety of Mundet stock and the two companies fully merged.

As early as the 1970s, Crown Cork & Seal began to face lawsuits from individuals suffering from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases as a result of Mundet products.

Crown Cork & Seal never manufactured, sold or installed asbestos insulation. However, its 93-day ownership of Mundet’s asbestos division makes Crown Cork & Seal liable for asbestos exposure from the products. The company continues to allocate funds for current and future asbestos lawsuits.

Despite paying out millions of dollars in claims and lawsuits related to asbestos exposure, Crown Cork & Seal remains profitable. The company is one of the largest producers of food and beverage packaging in the world. As of 2018, Crown Cork & Seal netted sales of $11.2 billion and employed approximately 33,000 people.

02. Asbestos Products

Crown Cork & Seal Company Asbestos Products

In 1963, Crown Cork & Seal purchased Mundet Cork Company and became responsible for exposure to Mundet asbestos products. Mundet made asbestos-free bottle caps, but also had a division that specialized in pipe and block asbestos insulation.

When Crown Cork & Seal acquired Mundet, the company maintained ownership of the bottle cap business, but sold the asbestos division. The sale included all inventory, machinery, equipment, offices and records relating to Mundet’s asbestos insulation business.

Mundet sold and manufactured asbestos insulation through its insulation division from the 1950s to 1963, when the division was sold to Crown Cork & Seal.

Crown Cork & Seal Company Products Containing Asbestos
Expand List of Products Containing Asbestos

Product Name Start Year End Year
Crown Cork and Seal Mundet Asbestos Cement 1950 1963
Crown Cork and Seal Mundet Pipecovering 1958 1963
Crown Cork and Seal MundetBlock 1958 1963
Crown Cork and Seal Mundetcork 1958 1963
Mundet Mineral Wool Finishing Cement
Mundet Mineral Wool Insulating Cement
Mundet Cork 85% Magnesia Asbestos Insulation
Mundet Block Insulation
Mundet Pipe Covering

03. Occupational Exposure

Crown Cork & Seal Company and Occupational Exposure

Thousands of individuals who came into contact with Mundet’s asbestos products may be at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases. Mundet employees and those who worked at oil refineries that purchased Mundet asbestos products are among the most at risk.

Industrial workers and construction workers who worked with Mundet’s asbestos-containing insulation most likely experienced occupational asbestos exposure when handling the material. Asbestos is commonly released into the air when cutting and sawing into insulation, resulting in workers inhaling these airborne fibers.

Occupations Impacted by Crown Cork & Seal Company’s Asbestos Use
04. Asbestos Litigation

Asbestos Litigation Against Crown Cork & Seal Company

Crown Cork & Seal Company started being named in asbestos claims in the 1970s after its purchase of Mundet Cork Company in 1963. Although Crown Cork & Seal sold Mundet’s asbestos insulation division three months later, it remains liable for asbestos-related lawsuits.

A legal precedent known as “successor liability” holds Crown Cork & Seal responsible for Mundet’s asbestos use. Because Crown Cork & Seal purchased a controlling stock of Mundet and later merged with the company, it is liable for Mundet’s asbestos use.

Crown Cork & Seal Company was named in its first asbestos lawsuit in the late 1970s. Between 1985 and 1997, the company settled around 70,000 asbestos claims. By 2004, the company had been named in more than 550,000 asbestos lawsuits and paid nearly $500 million in claims.

Asbestos Exposure Case Against Crown Cork & Seal
  • Frederick Shulte was diagnosed with epithelioid mesothelioma cancer as a result of years working at the McDermott Incorporated Shipyard.
  • Shulte was a pipefitter and ironfitter who worked on asbestos-containing gaskets, piping and valves.
  • Mundet Cork manufactured the asbestos pipe insulation Shulte worked with.
  • In 2012, Shulte was awarded $12 million in damages from Crown Cork & Seal and WestingHouse Electric Corporation.

The company does not have an established asbestos trust fund, but Crown Cork & Seal allocates money to pay asbestos claims. Today, Crown Cork & Seal is still named in asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits as a result of its ownership of Mundet. The company continues to pay out claims to victims of asbestos exposure.

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