United Gilsonite Laboratories History of Asbestos Use
- Years in Operation: 1932 – present
- Location: Scranton, Pennsylvania
- Production: Cement, coating, paint, sealants
- Asbestos Trust: Yes
Gerald B. Payne founded United Gilsonite Laboratories (UGL) in 1932 in Pennsylvania. Payne initially chose this name to make the company appear large and authoritative, despite starting the business with just eight employees. The company manufactured gilsonite asphalt products and other roofing treatments when it first opened.
In 1935, UGL purchased a Scranton, Pennsylvania factory and moved its operations from a rented warehouse. There, the company manufactured products for roofing and other coating and sealing applications. Drain opener and furniture polish were also among the company’s first products brought to the market. UGL manufactured the first asphalt aluminum paint in 1938, which was used to deflect heat from roofs and protect from the weather.
UGL first began manufacturing asbestos-containing products as early as 1942. The company introduced products NUDECK and LASTIDECK, both of which were liquid roof cements. Asphalt asbestos roofing products were commonly used to repair leaks in roofs, but were also utilized to repair gutters and rusty pipes.
The company further expanded its product offering in the following years to include products like ZAR polyurethane coating for commercial wood. In the 1950s, UGL created a line of waterproof sealants for basements, masonry leaks, flooring and walls called DRYLOK.
The company’s first asbestos-containing joint compound, also referred to as joint cement, was manufactured in 1954 and was a successful endeavor for the company. Joint compound was commonly used to repair drywall and other surfaces to prepare for painting and other treatments. The products were also sold to lumber yards and specialty stores.
Asbestos-containing products were removed from UGL’s catalog by the late-1970s in response to federal regulations that limited the use of the hazardous mineral. Despite halting the use of asbestos in its products, many individuals were exposed to UGL’s asbestos-containing materials.
UGL began to face lawsuits in 1983, which ultimately led the company to file for bankruptcy in 2011. The company continues to make waterproof sealants and joint compound, although the products are now manufactured without asbestos. UGL is still mentioned in lawsuits today from its past use of asbestos.
United Gilsonite Laboratories Asbestos Products
UGL’s joint compound proved to be a fruitful sector of the business, generating approximately $965,000 in revenue over its 21 years of production. UGL’s joint compound was often used as a wall treatment to fill holes. Its cement-like texture provided an even base for paint and other wall treatments. The asbestos component aided in durability and heat resistance.
UGL also manufactured asbestos-containing roofing. This included liquid roof cement, which was used to repair lifted shingles and leaks in roofs, gutters and pipes throughout the exterior of the home. Asbestos was used in this instance to withstand various weather conditions.
Asbestos products manufactured by UGL include, but are not limited to:
- Asbestos roofing
- Joint compound
- UGL Asbestos Furnace Cement
- UGL Joint Cement
United Gilsonite Laboratories and Occupational Exposure
Thousands of individuals across various occupations were exposed to UGL’s asbestos products. Factory workers were often exposed to the hazardous mineral as they manufactured asbestos-containing roofing materials and joint compound. Individuals who worked with the materials in construction, demolition and repair jobs were also exposed.
Occupational exposure often occurred when workers sanded drywall that had been filled with asbestos joint compound or repaired roofs that used UGL’s asbestos-containing roofing products.
Asbestos Litigation Against United Gilsonite Laboratories
UGL was mentioned in its first asbestos-related lawsuit in 1983, and its first mesothelioma lawsuit in 2001. By 2011, the company paid out more than $25 million in asbestos-related claims and still faced more than 900 active asbestos-related lawsuits. As a result, UGL filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy that year.
In one such case, Roberta Friedman was diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of being in contact with UGL products. She claimed she had been exposed to asbestos in her home from 1956 – 1970. She and her mother testified that UGL’s asbestos-containing joint compound was used in the home by Friedman’s father and uncle during home renovations when she was a child.
The product came in a powder form that was easily inhaled by Friedman and her father. The family also testified they could have inhaled the dust created when the product was sanded. Friedman claimed she helped her father clean up the area when renovations were complete.
Since she and her father did not properly handle the materials, she was exposed to hazardous asbestos fibers. The court denied UGL’s summary judgment, which may allow Friedman to be eligible to receive compensation.
United Gilsonite Laboratories Asbestos Trust Fund
As a result of mounting litigation, UGL filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 23, 2011. More than 2,200 pending filings forced the company to file for bankruptcy and begin the reorganization process to create a trust fund. The company established the UGL Trust on September 30, 2014.
The asbestos trust was established with $35.5 million, which included an $18 million promissory note, $11 million in cash from bankruptcy financing, $10 million UGL set aside for claims and $8 million from shareholders.
Victims can file lawsuits and seek compensation through the established trust. Payouts awarded vary depending on the individual’s case. Factors include age, exposure history, type of asbestos disease and the law firm’s settlement history.