Expert Fact Checked

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Jennifer Lucarelli Lawyer and Legal Advisor

Johns-Manville Corporation was the nation’s largest manufacturer and distributor of asbestos products and raw asbestos in the 1900s. However, by 1982, it faced thousands of lawsuits because of asbestos exposure from their products and filed for bankruptcy. The company created a trust fund in 1988.

01. History of Asbestos Use

Johns-Manville History of Asbestos Use

The Johns-Manville Corporation’s roots date back to 1858, when Henry Ward Johns began to develop roofing materials in his basement. Johns received his first asbestos product patent in 1868.

In 1886, Charles Manville ran Manville Covering Company, which produced asbestos pipe insulation and soon helped to sell Johns’ asbestos roofing materials and other products.

Quick Facts
  • Years in Operation: 1858 – Present
  • Location: Denver, Colorado
  • Production: Construction materials
  • Asbestos Trust: Yes

Ironically, Johns died in 1898 from what was believed to be asbestosis. Despite his passing, his company continued to grow, selling asbestos textiles, asbestos roofing and insulation.

In 1901, Johns’ company and Manville Covering Company officially merged, becoming the Johns-Manville Corporation. The new company continued to expand their asbestos material offerings.

The company was successful selling asbestos products, seeing sales of over $45 million by the mid-1920s. In 1927, Johns-Manville went public on the New York Stock Exchange.

From the 1920s to the 1970s, Johns-Manville continued to grow their asbestos product offerings. New asbestos products included materials like asbestos cement, brake linings, sheet packaging, adhesives, gaskets, corrugated paper and more. However, by the late 1920s, employees of the company began to develop asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.

During World War I and World War II, the company thrived and continued to grow, as asbestos was heavily used in insulation for ships and aircraft.

Throughout this period, the company also owned and operated asbestos mines. The asbestos produced there was used in the company’s own products and also sold to other asbestos companies.

Although the dangers of asbestos were known and documented by at least the 1920s, it wasn’t until the 1960s that a bigger emphasis was placed on the harmful effects of asbestos exposure. At this time, the company’s growth and profits began to decline. Despite this, Johns-Manville continued to produce and manufacture raw asbestos and asbestos products for the next several decades.

Johns-Manville’s continued use of asbestos led to more than 9,000 lawsuits by the early 1980s. The company officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1982 and established two asbestos trust funds for property damages and personal injuries a few years later.

02. Asbestos Products

Johns-Manville Asbestos Products

Johns-Manville has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading manufacturers and distributors of both raw asbestos and asbestos-containing goods. For decades, the company focused on a wide array of asbestos materials, largely within the construction industry. They also expanded into automotive parts, producing products like clutch linings, brake blocks and brake linings. Common Johns-Manville asbestos products include:

Some specific asbestos products used and manufactured by Johns-Manville include:

Johns-Manville Products Containing Asbestos
List of Products Containing Asbestos
Product Name Start Year End Year
Johns-Manville 301 Cement
Johns-Manville 319 Semi-Refractory Cement 1925 1969
Johns-Manville 352 Insulating Cement 1922 1973
Johns-Manville 373 AAA Grade Rope 1982
Johns-Manville 566 Commercial Grade Rope 1982
Johns-Manville 702 Commercial Grade Rope 1982
Johns-Manville 733 Commercial Grade Rope 1982
Johns-Manville 787 Comnercial Grade Rope 1982
Johns-Manville 788 AAA Grade Rope 1982
Johns-Manville 7M-13 Raw Asbestos Fibers
Johns-Manville 85% Magnesia Block Insulation 1902 1970
Johns-Manville 85% Magnesia Cement 1902 1970
Johns-Manville 85% Magnesia Pipe Covering 1902 1970
Johns-Manville 857 AAA Grade Rope 1982
Johns-Manville 869 AAA Grade Rope 1982
Johns-Manville Asbestocel 1902 1975
Johns-Manville Asbestocel Corrugated Paper 1902 1931
Johns-Manville Asbestocel Paper 1902 1931
Johns-Manville Asbestogard Adhesive
Johns-Manville Asbestos 85% Magnesia Locomotive Lagging
Johns-Manville Asbestos Canvas
Johns-Manville Asbestos Caulking Putty
Johns-Manville Asbestos Cloth
Johns-Manville Asbestos Fire Felt Locomotive Lagging 1900 1906
Johns-Manville Asbestos Gasketing
Johns-Manville Asbestos Metallic Brake Blocks 1972
Johns-Manville Asbestos Paper 1920 1980
Johns-Manville Asbestos Roofing Felt
Johns-Manville Asbestos Sponge Felt 1961
Johns-Manville Asbestos Wick Packing 1983
Johns-Manville Barge Roofing
Johns-Manville Block Insulation 1930 1973
Johns-Manville Blue Chip Felts Roofing Felt 1907 1979
Johns-Manville Body Sealer 1954 1975
Johns-Manville Built-Up Roofing
Johns-Manville Cable Fireproofing
Johns-Manville Cedargrain Asbestos-Cement Shingle 1907 1976
Johns-Manville Chemtite Epoxy Joint Cement
Johns-Manville Cloth (Coated) 1960 1983
Johns-Manville Colorblende Asbestos Shingles 1907 1976
Johns-Manville Commerical Grade Paper 1929 1980
Johns-Manville Custom Four Star Brake Linings 1972
Johns-Manville Deepgrain Asbestos-Cement Shingles 1907 1976
Johns-Manville Doublex Asbestos Paper 1936 1980
Johns-Manville Durobestos Asbestos-Cement Shingles 1907 1976
Johns-Manville Duxseal 1934 1982
Johns-Manville Ebony Electric Boards
Johns-Manville Fibroid Asbestos Paper 1911 1980
Johns-Manville Fibrous Adhesive Cement 1981
Johns-Manville Finishing Cement
Johns-Manville Fire Felt 1900 1975
Johns-Manville Fire-Glass Seal-0-Matic Roofing Shingles 1907 1979
Johns-Manville Fire-King Seal-0-Matic Roofing Shingles 1907 1979
Johns-Manville Flexboard 1927 1983
Johns-Manville Furnace Cement 1924 1973
Johns-Manville Gaskets
Johns-Manville HDM Clutch Facings 1972
Johns-Manville High Friction Level Brake Block 1972
Johns-Manville Industrial Vent Caulking
Johns-Manville Insulating Cement 1930 1973
Johns-Manville Insulkote ET 1929 1982
Johns-Manville Insulkote SG 1929 1982
Johns-Manville Insulkote SG 1929 1982
Johns-Manville Marinite Board 1906 1975
Johns-Manville Medium Friction Level Brake Blocks 1972
Johns-Manville Millboard 1910 1990
Johns-Manville Packing
Johns-Manville Pipe Covering 1902 1970
Johns-Manville Roofing Products
Johns-Manville Rope Packing
Johns-Manville Spiral Wound Clutch Facings 1972
Johns-Manville Standard Asbestos Shingles
Johns-Manville Superex 1900 Sheet/Block 1922 1973
Johns-Manville Superex Pipe Covering 1930 1971
Johns-Manville Swab Clutch Facings 1972
Johns-Manville Thermo-Pac Asbestos Rope
Johns-Manville Thermobestos Block Insulation 1950 1974
Johns-Manville Thermobestos Cement 1950 1974
Johns-Manville Thermobestos Pipe Covering 1950 1974
Johns-Manville Trailiners Brake Blocks 1972
Johns-Manville Transite Pipe 1906 1975
Johns-Manville Transite Roofing 1906 1975
Johns-Manville Transite Sheets 1906 1975
Johns-Manville Transite Siding 1906 1975
Johns-Manville WK Brake Linings 1972
03. Occupational Exposure

Johns-Manville and Occupational Exposure

Thousands of workers across the country faced the risk of occupational asbestos exposure from Johns-Manville products and operations. Affected employees included construction workers, miners and factory workers. These workers may have handled asbestos insulation and construction materials, as well as raw asbestos.

At its peak asbestos use, reports estimate the company had at least 3,500 employees. Workers for other companies and in many industries also faced exposure because Johns-Manville products were used in countless buildings, homes, schools, ships and more.

Additionally, homeowners, vehicle owners and others may be at risk for exposure when making repairs or renovations. Families of workers and consumers also faced an increased risk of asbestos-related diseases, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma, because of secondhand exposure.

Any asbestos exposure may result in an individual developing an asbestos-related illness such as mesothelioma.

Occupations Impacted by Johns-Manville's Asbestos Use

A number of these occupations are considered “heavy exposure” by the Johns-Manville trust fund. These include insulators, plumbers, railroad engineers and brakemen, welders and metal workers and shipyard workers.

According to the trust, shipyard workers were particularly at risk of asbestos exposure and related illnesses. Building, repairing, maintaining and operating ships exposed millions of shipyard workers worldwide to asbestos.

The Johns-Manville trust officially considers 100 days of shipboard asbestos exposure equal to an entire year of typical asbestos exposure. For example, if a boiler engineer worked aboard a ship for 200 days, they would be able to file for two years of asbestos exposure with the Johns-Manville trust.

04. Asbestos Litigation

Asbestos Litigation Against Johns-Manville

Johns-Manville employees began to complain about lung diseases and disability as a result of asbestos exposure on the job as early as 1929. Allegedly, Johns-Manville handled these early claims in private and settled in secrecy. However, the number of asbestos claims grew very quickly.

Sources stated Johns-Manville tried to discredit many of these claims. They argued that employees were also negligent because they knew or should have known of the dangers of asbestos. The corporation further argued that until 1964, the company wasn’t legally required to have warning labels about asbestos on their products.

Despite such efforts, new mesothelioma and asbestos lawsuits continued to rise, reaching 159 in 1976 and jumping to 792 within two years. By 1979, the company was a defendant or co-defendant in more than 1,500 lawsuits.

Clarence Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Company, et al.

This 1973 case is considered a landmark ruling for asbestos litigation as the first major case ruled in favor of the worker. Clarence Borel, an industrial worker who developed asbestosis and mesothelioma, filed a lawsuit against several companies. The jury found Johns-Manville and other defendants to be negligent. Borel was awarded a verdict of nearly $60,000.

Another notable case filed against Johns-Manville reached a decision in 1985. The plaintiff, a boilermaker, developed lung cancer after beginning work in the industry in 1939. He explained that he had worked in close proximity with insulators. He was exposed to so much asbestos during his shifts that he likened it to having a barrel of flour dumped on him. Johns-Manville supplied upwards of 90% of the insulation materials on these jobsites.

As a result of his prolonged exposure, the man developed asbestos lung cancer and his health quickly declined. The jury awarded him and his wife:

  • $800,000 in compensatory damages
  • $1.5 million in punitive damages

The verdict was upheld on appeal, citing the company’s negligence in exposing employees and clear knowledge of the dangers of asbestos.

In 2014, the families of 11 residents of Manville, New Jersey, were awarded $90.5 million in damages. The families sued two foreign companies that had sold asbestos to Johns-Manville.

Major manufacturing plants operated in the area, exposing numerous workers and residents to asbestos. The 11 New Jersey residents all died of asbestos-related cancer and diseases. Many were workers at the plants, but some were also victims of secondhand exposure from family members employed at Johns-Manville facilities.

Successful Settlements Against Johns-Manville

Victims of Johns-Manville’s asbestos use may receive settlement offers before and during the lawsuit process. It is up to plaintiffs to decide if they wish to accept the settlement offer.

Successful asbestos settlements from Johns-Manville include:

  • A 74-year-old pipefitter in Denver, Colorado, named Johns-Manville in their exposure case. They won $2,815,728.
  • A 96-year-old Navy worker and chemist in Chicago, Illinois, named Johns-Manville as a source of asbestos exposure. They received $1,609,462.
  • A 62-year-old construction and plant worker in Long Beach, California, named Johns-Manville as the source of their asbestos exposure. They won $1,367,964.
05. Asbestos Trust Fund

Johns-Manville Asbestos Trust Fund

The number of lawsuits against Johns-Manville rose through the 1970s and early 1980s. By this point, the company faced over 9,000 lawsuits, with juries consistently awarding plaintiffs large verdicts including punitive damages.

The current payment percentage for successful claims is 5.1%.

In 1982, Johns-Manville filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to combat the effects of declining profits coupled with the cost of these liabilities.

The company’s asbestos trust fund was not confirmed until four years later. The bankruptcy court confirmed their reorganization plan and established two trusts:

  • The Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust to pay personal injury claims, initially funded with $2.5 billion
  • The Manville Property Damage Settlement Trust to pay claims for property damage from asbestos removal, initially funded with $125 million

The personal injury trust began accepting claims in 1988. Within that first year, those maintaining the trust noted it had settled over 12,600 claims for nearly $500 million. By 1992, more than 190,000 claims had been filed against the trust.

It quickly became clear that the trust was underfunded, and payments stopped twice. Payout percentages have been lowered accordingly, and the trust has been able to continue offering asbestos victims an opportunity to seek mesothelioma compensation for the company’s wrongdoings.

The current payout percentage is 5.1%, but claimants’ actual compensation amount may vary according to a number of factors, including age, exposure history, type of asbestos disease and their firm’s settlement history.

The trust’s year end 2022 report revealed, as of December 31, 2022:

  • $573.3 million left in the personal injury trust
  • 1,105,883 claims filed against the trust
  • 983,726 successfully settled and paid claims
  • 12,029 claims currently eligible for settlement

If you believe you or a loved one is entitled to compensation, learn how a mesothelioma lawyer can help.