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Flexitallic began operations in the United States in the early 1900s as a rubber gasket and sealing products company. In 1912, the company developed the first spiral-wound gasket, a device made from metal and asbestos that was widely used in U.S. oil refinery operations during the early 20th century. The company used asbestos in its products until 1992.
From the 1960s through the 1990s, Flexitallic developed many other gaskets and sealing products, but the Flexitallic spiral-wound gasket was the company’s most popular. Over the years, the company underwent several ownership and name changes, including to Flexitallic Gasket Company and Gasket Holdings, Inc. In 1998, Federal-Mogul purchased the company, calling it The Flexitallic Group.
The company’s employees, as well as people who used the company’s products, continue to be at risk for exposure to asbestos. While the company no longer uses asbestos in its products, Flexitallic gaskets and sealant products that crack can release asbestos fibers in the air.
Flexitallic High Risk Occupations
In addition to workers at Flexitallic manufacturing plants, people who worked in a variety of other settings are at risk for developing asbestos-related diseases.
Anyone who served aboard U.S. Navy ships or worked in shipyards are at risk for exposure to Flexitallic asbestos products. The company listed dozens of Navy cruisers, destroyers, frigates and submarines with Flexitallic asbestos products.
In addition, pipefitters, refinery workers and boilermakers at chemical plants, nuclear power plants, oil refineries, paper mills and electric power plants are at risk for exposure. Non-military sites that utilized Flexitallic asbestos-containing products include:
A Seattle-based timberland products company.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
The second largest tobacco company in the United States.
Union Carbide Chemical Co.
A chemical and polymer company owned by the Dow Chemical Company.
including Schenectady, N.Y.; Boulder, Colo.; Racine, Wis.; and Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Exposed to Asbestos
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How was the Flexitallic trust formed?
The spiral-wound gasket was made from thin layers of densely packed asbestos, called asbestos sheet packing, and metal that were bonded to form ring-shaped gaskets. During the production, employees were commonly exposed to asbestos.
In the 1990s, scores of employees sued the company for asbestos exposure. In 2001, Flexitallic filed for bankruptcy under the Chapter 11 regulations. The trust was funded with $635 million and began accepting claims in 2007. The trust currently pays claimants 6 percent of the funds requested to ensure all claimants who qualify will receive a settlement. Asbestos trust fund trustees increase and decrease the payment percentage based on the expected number of future claimants.
Flexitallic Asbestos Products & Exposure
Flexitallic’s spiral-wound gasket has been named in thousands of claims due to its high asbestos content. The gasket was made from alternate layers of metal and asbestos that are bonded tightly. The product is strong and can withstand high heat, fire and chemical intrusion.
The spiral-wound gasket was very popular in commercial and residential uses. The gasket came in several styles. The company said the gaskets were made with Canadian (chrysotile) and blue fiber (crocidolite) asbestos. The following Flexitallic spiral-wound gaskets were mass-produced at Flexitallic plants:
- Styles M and MC Gaskets – for boiler manhole covers.
- Style T Gaskets – for boiler handhold and tubecap cover assemblies.
- Styles CG and CGP Gaskets – for joints in petroleum refinery piping.
- Style R-1 Gaskets – for male-female joints.
- Style R-3 Gaskets – for tongue and groove joints.
Workers exposed to the various products manufactured by Flexitallic were not the only at risk groups for asbestos related diseases. Due to the shape and size of asbestos, it has a high propensity to linger on clothing and attach itself to various objects in any given environment. This is especially true for the clothing of asbestos workers.
Once workers came home from the job site, their families took on immediate risk of exposure. Washing clothing and simple contact with contaminated clothing was enough to cause health problems. This is why family members of Flexitallic workers are also able to file claims.
Flexitallic Settlements and Payouts
Asbestos-disease victims who file claims on asbestos bankruptcy trusts funds have two options for payment: Expedited or individual review.
Expedited settlements are often called cash settlements because claimants gain quicker access to payments than those who seek individual reviews. Individual reviews take longer but the payments are typically larger than expedited settlements. The choice of which type of settlement review to choose depends on a number of factors including the claimant’s disease, the degree of illness and exposure levels, among other things.
Flexitallic settlements fall under the Federal-Mogul Asbestos Personal Injury Trust. The following is the disease and payment schedule for the Flexitallic trust expedited review:
Litigation and Legal Proceedings
Flexitallic was owned by T&N, which was beginning to take some heat from asbestos lawsuits. In 1998, T&N could no longer fight the lawsuits and sold to Federal-Mogul. Even Federal-Mogul was unable to handle the volume of asbestos claims and they were forced to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The company was facing steep odds in the amount of 350,000 asbestos claims. After acquiring Flexitallic, Federal-Mogul realized that 158,000 cases came with.
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- EWG.org. (2004). Asbestos: Think Again: Case Study: Federal Mogul Retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/research/asbestos-think-again/case-study-federal-mogul
- Federal-Mogul Asbestos Trust. Retrieved fromhttp://www.federalmogulasbestostrust.com
- Rand Corp. Asbestos Litigation. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/topics/asbestos-litigation.html
- Hellerman, E., and Voorhees, T. Peripheral Defendants as Litigation Targets. Covington & Burling. Retrieved fromhttp://www.cov.com/files/Publication/9de0ea41-479d-4100-be34-a0a472c3aa1e/Presentation/PublicationAttachment/9d028b7b-9fef-45ef-afb4-a1e3bc39fbef/oid6374.PDF