The Congoleum Plan Trust was created in 2010 and has $270 million set aside to compensate injured workers and their families. Payment Percentage: 12.5% Average Settlement Amount: $120,000
Congoleum Corporation started in the early 1800s by the Narin family in Scotland under the name Narin Linoleum Co. as a floor cloth manufacturer. After the company was moved to the United States and began producing vinyl floors, asbestos was added to the products.
Congoleum, based in New Jersey, manufactured resilient sheet flooring, floor tiles, inlaid linoleum flooring and other flooring styles using the dangerous additive to increase the product’s strength and heat, fire and chemical resistance. Congoleum, like other companies of the time, never warned its employees or others who came into contact with the products of the risks associated with asbestos exposure. Records show that many companies instead worked to conceal the dangers to ensure they would continue to earn massive profits.
By the time the general public learned of the actual dangers of asbestos, scores of people started becoming gravely ill as a result of exposure. By 1993, the company, overwhelmed with legal claims due to its use of asbestos, filed for bankruptcy protection. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy was finalized in 2010.
Soon after the Nairns Linoleum flooring company moved to the United States, it partnered with Congoleum to become Congoleum-Nairns. In the 1950s, the company began producing the first no-wax resilient vinyl floors. As the company expanded, it shortened its name to Congoleum Corporation.
Between 1947 and 1984, the company used asbestos in its products. In 1981, the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection found Congoleum was one of the six primary processors of asbestos products. The company used thousands of pounds of asbestos in its products, putting its employees and its customers at risk for exposure. The company owned manufacturing facilities in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
As a growing number of asbestos victims began filing legal action against Congoleum, it sought protection via the bankruptcy courts. The bankruptcy proceedings started in 1993, but it took almost two decades for the courts to approve the reorganization plan. In 2003, Congoleum faced nearly 100,000 asbestos-related claims.
Like other asbestos trust funds, the Congoleum trust only pays a fraction of the requested amount to ensure there will be enough funds to pay all claimants in the future. In 2017, the Congoleum trust increased its payment percentage from 6.25 percent to 12.5 percent. In the same year, the trust paid a total of $12.3 million in claims.
Despite knowing about the dangers of asbestos, the company still used the product. Some of Congoleum’s products did carry labeling indicating added asbestos, but warnings were never included.
Manufacturers that made asbestos-containing vinyl flooring followed a similar process that included opening 50-, 70- or 100-pound bags of asbestos and removing the product by hand into large vats. The asbestos was mixed with other products, including liquid chemicals and water, to form a mixture that was put through a series of rollers and heat to create flooring.
In manufacturing Congoleum vinyl flooring, workers were often exposed to airborne asbestos during the measuring, blending and mixing process. Because asbestos fibers are so lightweight, the fibers can linger in the air for hours.
In addition, workers who install or repair asbestos flooring can also be exposed to the asbestos toxin. Such exposure often occurs when old, brittle floors are removed or sanded.
The Congoleum Plan Trust, like other asbestos trusts, was established to help people who were exposed to asbestos. Court documents show that corporate executives knew about the dangers asbestos would cause. Instead of warning the workers and providing adequate protection from the dangers, companies, including Congoleum, chose to ignore the warning to put profits ahead of worker safety.
For the Congoleum asbestos trust, claimants have an option of choosing a quick review for faster access to a monetary settlement (expedited review) or a slower review that may provide a higher settlement amount (individual review). Both types of review require a significant amount of documentation and proof of exposure. The trusts also distribute funds based on the severity of the disease and other factors.
Claimants who choose an expedited review will receive a fixed amount of funding based on the scheduled determined by the trustees. An expedited review is intended to help asbestos victims who need fast access to settlement funds. Trustees process expedited claims within 90 days in the first-in, first-out (FIFO) processing queue. The Congoleum expedited review provides the following compensation:
By filing for an individual review, claimants are entitled to a thorough examination of medical and occupational records. An individual review takes longer (120 days from entry into the FIFO processing queue), but it could mean more substantial financial settlement. The following is the average value for an individual review of a Congoleum trust request:
The trust does not provide information for the average value of asbestosis/pleural disease and other asbestos disease claims in an individual review.
In 2017, the trust received 6,857 trust claims requests and paid 780. Since the trust began, it has denied 261,313 claims.
In manufacturing flooring, manufacturers, including Congoleum, used asbestos because it improved the products. Some of Congoleum’s leading products contained pounds of asbestos. The company produced vinyl and linoleum flooring under brand names that include:
Anyone who has been exposed to Congoleum Corporation’s products may be eligible for a financial settlement from the company’s bankruptcy trust fund. Contact us today for more information about your options.
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