01. History of Asbestos Use
Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc. History of Asbestos Use
- Years in Operation: 1952 – 1978
- Location: Irving, Texas
- Production: Building products
- Asbestos Trust: In Process
The Kaiser Gypsum Company was started by Henry J. Kaiser in 1952. During this post-World War II era, asbestos use was reaching its height and the product was added to more than 3,000 products. Kaiser Gypsum alone created hundreds of asbestos-containing products during its years of operation.
Asbestos was included in the production of Kaiser Gypsum building materials to increase product strength and heat- and fire- resistance. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that the public became aware of the health risks associated with using these asbestos-containing Gypsum products, such as the development of mesothelioma.
However, according to court documents, it is alleged the company was aware of the health risks associated with asbestos use as early as 1965. Other reports claim the company knew the risks in 1952, when the company began production.
The Kaisers owned the Kaiser Gypsum Company until its sale in 1978 to Domtar. The Canadian company bought Kaiser Gypsum for $35 million and later sold it to Georgia-Pacific, which also has been named a defendant in numerous asbestos claims.
02. Asbestos Products
Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc. Asbestos Products
Kaiser Gypsum used asbestos in a myriad of their products, as did most gypsum companies between the 1950s and 1970s. Asbestos fibers were most notably used in Kaiser Gypsum’s joint compounds. The compound could be purchased as a powder or pre-mixed, and both forms of the product led to asbestos exposure. Kaiser Gypsum’s 1955 joint compound asbestos content was 15%. In 1958, the asbestos content had dropped to approximately 5%, though any amount of exposure can cause asbestos-related diseases.
In addition to the joint compound, Kaiser Gypsum used asbestos in the production of their wall texture, finishing compounds and masonry cement, among other products.
Kaiser Gypsum used asbestos in their products the entire time they operated.
Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc. Products Containing Asbestos
|Product Name||Start Year||End Year|
|Kaiser Gypsum Cover-Tex Wall Texture||1968||1975|
|Kaiser Gypsum Dual Purpose Joint Compound|
|Kaiser Gypsum Finishing Compound|
|Kaiser Gypsum Joint Compound||1953||1975|
|Kaiser Gypsum K-Spray Ceiling Texture||1961||1975|
|Kaiser Gypsum Masonry Cement||1973|
|Kaiser Gypsum Mineral Fibreboard|
|Kaiser Gypsum Null-A-Fire Board||1969||1978|
|Kaiser Gypsum One-Day Joint Compound||1953||1975|
|Kaiser Gypsum Plastic Cement|
|Kaiser Gypsum Plastic Gun Cement|
|Kaiser Gypsum Premix Finishing Compound|
03. Occupational Exposure
Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc. and Occupational Exposure
Occupational exposure to Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc. products may have occurred at a number of different work sites. Those working in the factories producing the asbestos-containing products, such as machine operators, may have been exposed. Truck drivers transporting the materials may have been exposed if product packaging was damaged, enabling inhalation or ingestion of airborne asbestos fibers. Most notably, those working in construction and demolition may still encounter asbestos-containing Kaiser Gypsum products today.
It’s unclear exactly how many were employed by Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc. during its time of operation, but reports show that in 1963, their Permanente, CA, factory was the largest producer of cement in the state, manufacturing more than 8 million barrels.
According to a 1978 report from The New York Times, at the time of liquidation, the 230 Kaiser companies, including Kaiser Gypsum, employed almost 97,000 people.
04. Asbestos Litigation
Asbestos Litigation Against Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc.
Since the sale of Kaiser Gypsum in 1978, the company has been a named defendant in more than 35,000 asbestos claims. The top jurisdictions with claims naming Kaiser Gypsum include:
- Baltimore City, MD
- Cook County, IL
- Madison County, IL
- Middlesex County, MA
- New Castle, DE
Lawsuits filed against Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc. have come from a variety of workers, not just those employed by the company or workers who handled Kaiser’s asbestos-containing products directly.
One such case was filed by Richard Reivitt, a pipefitter who experienced bystander exposure while on the job, who was later diagnosed with mesothelioma. Reivitt died after a nine-month battle with the cancer. His widow, Norma Jean Reivitt, filed against Kaiser on behalf of her late spouse and was awarded $650,000, with additional compensatory and punitive awards. The case was then settled for an undisclosed amount.
A similar ruling was found in the California case of Patricia Casey v. Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc. John Casey, a plumber and pipefitter from 1962 to 2001, developed mesothelioma in 2010 after working with asbestos products manufactured by Kaiser. The Casey’s won their case against Kaiser Gypsum and were awarded more than $21 million. A later trial awarded the couple additional funds.
Some reports contest that a 2016 jury award of approximately $9 million to an Oregon carpenter diagnosed with mesothelioma due to asbestos-containing Kaiser Gypsum products led the company to file for bankruptcy.
05. Asbestos Trust Fund
Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc. Asbestos Trust Fund
Kaiser Gypsum filed for bankruptcy in North Carolina in September 2016. This began the process of reorganization that would create a trust fund to pay all current and future asbestos-related claims filed against them. The bankruptcy trust is not yet operational and is currently not accepting or paying claims made against the company.
If approved and operational, the asbestos trust will pay a set percentage of each claim filed against it. This procedure ensures there are adequate funds for future claimants. A higher payout than this base payment percentage may occur based on a number of factors, including but not limited to, age, exposure, type and firm settlement history.
There are other Kaiser companies that have created asbestos trusts. In 2006, The Kaiser Asbestos Personal Injury Trust was created after The Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation filed for bankruptcy. The current payment percentage for The Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation asbestos trust is 18.1%.