Johns-Manville History of Asbestos Use
- Years in Operation: 1858 – present
- Location: Denver, Colorado
- Production: Construction materials
- Asbestos Trust: Yes
Before the merger in 1901, both H.W. Johns Manufacturing Company and Manville Covering Company worked on developing asbestos goods. In 1868, Henry Ward Johns received his first patent for an asbestos product after spending years developing roofing materials in his basement. In 1886, Charles Manville ran Manville Covering Company, which produced asbestos pipe insulation, and soon helped to sell Henry Ward Johns’ products.
However, Henry Ward Johns died in 1898, from what was believed to be asbestosis. Despite his passing, his company continued to grow as they sold asbestos textiles, roofing and insulation. Once the two companies merged, the corporation continued to focus on expanding their offering of asbestos materials. From the 1920s to the 1970s, Johns-Manville continued to grow and expand their asbestos product offerings, including materials like asbestos cement, brake linings, sheet packaging and more.
The company was so successful in selling asbestos goods that it was able to go public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1927 after seeing sales of over $45 million and high profits. Across the country, asbestos use was at its peak from the 1930s to the early 1970s. During this time, Johns-Manville grew quickly and produced a range of asbestos materials, including asbestos cement, adhesives, gaskets, corrugated paper and more. 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 airplanes.
Throughout this period, the company also owned and operated asbestos mines to make their own products, as well as distributed raw fibers globally.
However, by the late 1920s, employees of the company began to note asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma. 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 detrimental effects of asbestos exposure, and the company began to experience declining growth and profits. However, Johns-Manville continued to produce and manufacture raw asbestos and their asbestos products for the next several decades.
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 offered everything from adhesive and sealers to cements and block insulation.
Johns-Manville 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 Pipecovering|
|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|
Johns-Manville and Occupational Exposure
Because of the widespread use of Johns-Manville products across many industries, as well as the corporation operating numerous industrial plants and mines, thousands of workers across the country faced the risk of exposure to 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.
Asbestos Litigation Against Johns-Manville Corporation
Reports show as early as 1929, employees of the company began to complain about lung diseases and disability as a result of asbestos exposure on the job. Initially, Johns-Manville allegedly handled these claims in private and settled in secrecy. However, the number of asbestos claims grew very quickly.
Sources at the time stated that Johns-Manville tried to discredit claims by reasoning that employees of the company were also negligent because they knew or should have been aware 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 upwards of 1,500 lawsuits.
This 1973 case is considered a landmark ruling for asbestos litigation. Johns-Manville and other defendants were found to be negligent in this case against an industrial worker who developed asbestosis and mesothelioma. They lost upon appeal and had to pay a verdict of nearly $60,000.
One of the most notable claims filed against Johns-Manville reached a decision in 1985. James Cavett, a boilermaker, developed lung cancer after beginning work in the industry in 1939. Cavett explained that he had close proximity with insulators. He described his working conditions as if someone had dumped a barrel of flour on him because of all the asbestos dust created. It was noted that Johns-Manville supplied upwards of 90% of the insulation materials on these jobsites.
As a result of his prolonged exposure, Cavett developed asbestos lung cancer and his health quickly declined. The jury awarded Cavett and his wife Mary $800,000 in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages. The verdict was upheld upon appeal, citing the company’s negligence in exposing employees and clear knowledge of the dangers of asbestos.
Johns-Manville Asbestos Trust Fund
As the number of lawsuits against Johns-Manville continued to rise and the company’s profits declined, the company had to declare bankruptcy and restructure. Johns-Manville Corporation officially filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 1982. At this point, the company faced over 9,000 lawsuits, with juries consistently awarding plaintiffs large verdicts with punitive damages.
The company’s asbestos trust fund was not confirmed until four years later. The bankruptcy court confirmed their reorganization plan and established the Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust to pay personal injury claims and the Manville Property Damage Settlement Trust to pay claims for property damage from asbestos removal. The personal injury trust was initially funded with $2.5 billion, and the property damage trust was funded with $125 million.
The trust first became operational in 1988. Within that first year, those maintaining the trust noted it had settled over 12,600 claims for nearly $500 million and had paid out over $50 million to 1,200 claimants. By 1992, there were more than 190,000 claims against the trust.
With the rising number of claims, 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 compensation from the company’s wrongdoings. The current payout percentage is 5.1%, but claimants’ actual compensation amount will vary according to a number of factors, including age, exposure history, type of asbestos disease and their firm’s settlement history.
As of 2019, there are over 940,000 active claims pending against the trust.