Kelly-Moore Paints

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Jennifer Lucarelli Legal Advisor and Contributor

Kelly-Moore Paints was founded in 1946 and has grown to be one of the largest employee-owned paint companies in the United States. Kelly-Moore’s use of asbestos stems from its acquisition of Paco Textures Corporation in 1960. Kelly-Moore used asbestos as a thickener and fire retardant in its Paco joint compound products until 1978. As a result, many employees and consumers were exposed to asbestos and developed asbestos-related diseases.

01. History of Asbestos Use

Kelly-Moore Paints History of Asbestos Use

Quick Facts
  • Years in Operation: 1946 – present
  • Location: San Carlos, California
  • Production: Paint, drywall products
  • Asbestos Trust: No

Kelly-Moore Paints was founded in 1946 and grew quickly due to the increased demand for home building after World War II. Founders William E. Moore and William H. Kelly had a mission of creating high-quality products for professional contractors and do-it-yourself customers. In 1952, Moore bought Kelly out of the business but maintained the Kelly-Moore name.

As Kelly-Moore Paints continued to grow, it acquired several smaller companies, including Paco Textures Corporation. Kelly-Moore Paints acquired the company in 1960, two years after Paco Textures Corporation was founded.

It was through this acquisition that Kelly-Moore became involved in the asbestos industry. The company incorporated asbestos fibers into paint and texture products as a fire-retardant, thickener and filler.

Kelly-Moore’s Paco joint compound and texture products contained up to 6% asbestos.

After acquiring Paco Textures Corporation, Kelly-Moore continued to use asbestos in its Paco joint compound products to increase durability. From 1960 on, Paco Textures Corporation operated as a division of Kelly-Moore and it continued to manufacture and sell the asbestos-containing line of products until 1978.

Kelly-Moore purchased raw asbestos to be incorporated into its Paco products at its California location. The company bought the asbestos from Carey Canadian, Johns-Manville and Union Carbide.

According to testimony from a former Kelly-Moore employee, Union Carbide supplied approximately 8% of Kelly-Moore’s asbestos supply, Johns-Manville supplied 20% and Carey Canadian supplied 72%.

As a result of asbestos use in its Paco line, Kelly-Moore was first named in an asbestos lawsuit in 1977. The company still faces asbestos lawsuits today from those who have developed asbestos-related illnesses as a result of using its products.

In order to offset the money the company was losing in litigation expenses, Kelly-Moore filed a lawsuit in 2004 against one of its asbestos suppliers: Union Carbide. The company was seeking $1 billion to assist in paying its own personal injury lawsuits.

In the trial, Kelly-Moore alleged Union Carbide sold the company asbestos it claimed was safe. Union Carbide argued it advised Kelly-Moore of the potential hazard. Union Carbide further stated the paint company was a “sophisticated” buyer of asbestos. In the end, the judge decided in favor of Union Carbide and the case did not clear Kelly-Moore of any liability.

Despite the many asbestos lawsuits, Kelly-Moore continued to grow throughout the 20th century. The company was headquartered in San Carlos, California, but quickly expanded, opening dozens of stores across the western and southwestern sections of the United States.

Over time, Kelly-Moore opened 160 stores in 11 states, as well as one international store in Guam. The company operates four manufacturing facilities and employs thousands of workers.

02. Asbestos Products

Kelly-Moore Paints Asbestos Products

Kelly-Moore is well-known as a leader in the paint industry, but it was the company’s multiple spackling and drywall products that contained asbestos. Specifically, Kelly-Moore sold Paco brand joint compound that contained asbestos.

Joint-compound is a powder consumers mix with water to create a paste. The paste can cover cracks and spaces between sheetrock and drywall. Once the paste dries, the surface is sanded until it becomes smooth.

Many joint compound mixes manufactured before the 1980s, like Paco brand, contained asbestos fibers to increase durability. Because joint compound comes in a powder form, asbestos fibers could easily become airborne when mixing the solution or when sanding the dried surface.

Contractors and consumers who completed do-it-yourself projects worked with these products most often. Many consumers cited buying Kelly-Moore brand products because they were the best value on the market.

Kelly-Moore sold and manufactured asbestos products from 1960 until 1978 after acquiring Paco Textures Corporation. Paco’s line of products contained approximately 6% asbestos.

Kelly-Moore Paints Products Containing Asbestos
List of Products Containing Asbestos
Product Name Start Year End Year
Kelly-Moore Bedding Cement 1960 1970
Kelly-Moore Deco-Tex Ceiling Texture 1964 1978
Kelly-Moore Paco All-Purpose Joint Compound 1960 1978
Kelly-Moore Paco Finishing Compound 1960 1977
Kelly-Moore Paco Joint Cement
Kelly-Moore Paco Joint Compound 1960 1978
Kelly-Moore Paco Quik-Set Joint Compound 1963 1978
Kelly-Moore Paco Ready Mix Joint Compound 1960 1978
Kelly-Moore Paco Spray Texture
Kelly-Moore Paco Taping Compound 1970 1977
Kelly-Moore Paco Texture
Kelly-Moore Paco Texture Paint
Kelly-Moore Paco Topping Compound 1963 1978
Kelly-Moore Paco Wall Texture 1960 1978
Kelly-Moore Paco-Tex Wall Texture
03. Occupational Exposure

Kelly-Moore Paints and Occupational Exposure

Many occupations were susceptible to asbestos exposure from Kelly-Moore joint compound products. Professional contractors and individual consumers represent a majority of Kelly-Moore’s sales. Therefore, individuals who worked on home construction and renovation were most at risk.

Construction workers and contractors who used Paco joint compound products were likely exposed to asbestos while handling the material. If the joint compound became airborne during mixing or sanding, workers were more likely to inhale the asbestos fibers.

Occupations Impacted by Kelly-Moore Paints' Asbestos Use
  • Painters
  • Roofers
  • Tapers
04. Asbestos Litigation

Asbestos Litigation Against Kelly-Moore Paints

Kelly-Moore understood it could be liable for asbestos-related illness as early as 1971, when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) first published standards for asbestos use. At that time, Kelly-Moore anticipated future lawsuits and created a central repository for asbestos-related documents. The company also asked certain employees to become “knowledgeable historians” of Kelly-Moore to prepare to testify on behalf of the business.

In 1976, an internal memo at Kelly-Moore stated it could be judged liable in a lawsuit where a person exposed to its asbestos-containing product developed a cancer-related injury or died.

Kelly-Moore was named in its first asbestos lawsuit in 1977 and has since been named in thousands of asbestos claims.

In one case, Alfredo Hernandez Sr. sought financial compensation from Kelly-Moore in 2001 after being diagnosed with mesothelioma at age 47. In the 1970s, Hernandez worked as a contractor in California. He attributed his cancer to working with Kelly-Moore Paco joint compound and wall texture products that contained asbestos.

Hernandez’s attorney argued Kelly-Moore understood the effects of asbestos exposure in the 1970s from OSHA recommendations and continued to sell the products. The jury decided against Kelly-Moore and found the company 100% liable for Hernandez’s cancer. The Hernandez family was awarded $55.5 million, which included $15 million in punitive damages.

In 2004, Robert Treggett and his wife, Linda, filed a lawsuit against Kelly-Moore and Garlock Sealing Technologies. Treggett worked as a nuclear machinist in the U.S. Navy from 1965 – 1972. During his time in the Navy, Treggett was exposed to asbestos from a number of products and machinery. Garlock Sealing Technologies made asbestos-containing gaskets for the Navy vessels that Treggett worked on.

He also helped remodel his father’s home after his service in the mid-1970s. Treggett testified he used Kelly-Moore Paco Quik-Set joint compound during his father’s remodel.

The jury found Treggett’s cancer diagnosis was a result of asbestos exposure during his time in the Navy and his later use of Kelly-Moore joint compound. The court assigned:

  • 14% fault to Kelly-Moore Paints
  • 40% fault to Garlock Sealing Technologies
  • 46% fault to non-parties, including 39% to the U.S. Navy

Kelly-Moore does not have an established trust fund, but uses its own funds to pay out asbestos case settlements and claims. The company continues to face new asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits. If you believe you or a loved one is entitled to compensation, learn how a mesothelioma lawyer can help.