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Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation

Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation used asbestos in its products for several decades, leaving thousands of workers susceptible to asbestos injuries. In early 2000, Kaiser was facing more than 100,000 asbestos claims and strain from a labor dispute. To manage the financial burden, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2006. The Kaiser Asbestos Trust was started with $1.2 billion.

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When Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. began operations in 1946, it was made up of two aluminum reduction facilities and an aluminum rolling mill. Over the years, Kaiser expanded its reach into aluminum mining, manufacturing and distribution. The company was involved in almost every facet of the aluminum industry.

When Henry Kaiser launched his company, he leased three aluminum facilities in Washington state that were owned by the U.S. government. Kaiser Aluminum eventually purchased the land, and the company grew to 12 facilities across the nation. Kaiser Aluminum is just one of the many companies started by Henry Kaiser. He had a hand in dozens of industries, including healthcare, construction and shipbuilding.

Kaiser Aluminum Occupational Exposure

Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation had several plant sites, including one in Foothill City, California, and several in Washington state. Several occupations that are at risk of asbestos exposure include:

  • Construction Workers
  • Welders
  • Manufacturers
  • Metal Workers
  • Shipbuilders and Shippers
  • Steel Workers
  • Plant Operators
  • Cold and Hot Rollers
  • Casters

Exposed to Asbestos

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Kaiser Aluminum Asbestos Usage

In the 1950s, the company’s aluminum products could be found in all functions of construction and the military. Asbestos was used because of its high heat, chemical and fire resistance throughout Kaiser plants. Some examples include its use on aluminum smelters, which extract aluminum from oxide to prevent conducting electrical current. Asbestos was also used in the heavy machinery on the plants and in protective clothing. The company also used asbestos to produce protective fireboards for U.S. Navy ships and other ships. Asbestos was also used in the company’s buildings and offices.

Asbestos was regularly used in Kaiser products from the company’s birth through the early 1980s. Due to the reach of Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. there is the potential for widespread asbestos exposure. Many Kaiser products may remain in buildings, construction materials and shipyards today.


Types of Kaiser Aluminum Products

From the beginning, Kaiser was involved in all variations of aluminum work. The products that put workers and their families at the most risk include the following:

  • Metal-encased firebrick
  • Block insulation
  • Finishing cement
  • Wool cement
  • Insulating cement
  • Building panel and siding
  • Raw asbestos fiber
  • Plastic chrome ore
  • Fireboard
  • Shipbuilding materials

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Kaiser Asbestos Product Development

The Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corp. developed products used in aluminum refining and included asbestos in production. Kaiser also sold asbestos-containing materials, including refractory materials, insulation, asbestos cement and building siding.

One of the company’s most significant ventures was in shipbuilding during World War II. The company owned shipyards in areas that included California. When the war ended, Kaiser moved into manufacturing aluminum parts for automobiles. By the early 1950s, Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical was the nation’s third-largest aluminum producer and manufacturer.

By the 1960s, the company began developing asbestos-containing cement and insulation. In 1967, Kaiser employed about 90,000 people in nearly 200 plants nationwide. Many of the plants used asbestos in one form or another.

  • K-N Plastic Chrome Ore
  • Vee Block Castable Insulation
  • Blast Furnace Castable Insulation
  • Super D Block Insulation
  • KR 1202/1204 M/C Brick
  • Hard Top Finishing Cement
  • M-Block Insulation

Trust Fund Compensation Application Process

Individuals exposed to products manufactured by Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. can file a claim against the Kaiser Asbestos Personal Injury Trust.

The Kaiser trust recognizes asbestos-related diseases by level, with Level VII being the most severe (mesothelioma) and Level I as the least severe (other asbestos disease). Each disease level has specific medical and exposure criteria for compensation. All trust claims are processed via a first-in, first-out (FIFO) method, meaning claims will be handled in the order in which they are received.

Claimants have two options for processing a claim:

  • Expedited Review – Claims are paid quickly, and fixed payment values.
  • Individual Review – Claim takes longer to process, and payment values are contingent on individual circumstances.

Claimants or their families must provide information that proves exposure and the level of disease, among other things.

Kaiser asbestos trust claimants must submit documentation that includes the following:

  • Medical records supporting the claimed disease level
  • Proof of exposure to a Kaiser product
  • Documentation supporting the claim that lost wages were a result of a Kaiser asbestos disease, including: Medical records and reports, military service records, witness testimony, reports from governmental agencies, records from insurance agencies, and information from the most recent employer

Once all of the information is submitted, the claim can take up to six months to be approved. However, with the help of an attorney who understands the system, the approval process can take as few as three months.


Kaiser Asbestos Trust Payouts and Compensation

Once approved, the claim payout (formally called a liquidation) will be allocated based on the trust distribution procedures (TDP). The TDP is based on the type of review:

Expedited Reveiew

The expedited review is designed to provide faster access to funds but can only be used for easily verifiable claims that meet the medical and exposure criteria. The expedited review establishes a fixed settlement amount (called a scheduled value) based on disease level, as follows:

Disease Scheduled Value
Mesothelioma (Level VII) $70,000
Lung Cancer 1 (Level VII) $27,500
Lung Cancer 2 (Level VI) $0
Other Cancer (Level V) $13,800
Severe Asbestosis (Level IV) $20,750
Asbestosis/Pleural Disease (Level III) $4,850
Asbestosis/Pleural Disease (Level II) $700
Other Asbestos Disease (Level I) $200

Lung Cancer 2 (Level VI) claims do not meet the stringent criteria established for Lung Cancer 1 (Level VII). Lung Cancer 2 claims must be individually evaluated. The estimated valuation for a Lung Cancer 2 claim is typically between $7,000 and $20,000.

The difference between Asbestosis/Pleural Disease (Level III) and Asbestosis/Pleural Disease (Level II) claims include more severe disease spread. The scope of the disease must be documented in radiology reports, lung function tests and lung capacity tests.


Individual Review

Claimants who do not meet the requirements for an expedited review, whose expedited review claim is denied or who have extenuating circumstances can file for an individual analysis. The individual review method takes longer than an expedited review because trustees must consider personal circumstances. The result may be a payout higher or lower than the fixed rate established by the expedited review or no payment at all.

Because individual claim values differ per claimant circumstances, trusts do not publish specific values. However, the Kaiser trust established an average and maximum value for each disease level:

Disease Average Value
Mesothelioma (Level VII) $104,000
Lung Cancer 1 (Level VII) $33,000
Lung Cancer 2 (Level VI) $7,000
Other Cancer (Level V) $17,300
Severe Asbestosis (Level IV) $22,000
Asbestosis/Pleural Disease (Level III) $0
Asbestosis/Pleural Disease (Level II) $0
Other Asbestos Disease (Level I) $0

Disease Maximum Value
Mesothelioma (Level VII) $380,000
Lung Cancer 1 (Level VII) $85,000
Lung Cancer 2 (Level VI) $20,000
Other Cancer (Level V) $40,000
Severe Asbestosis (Level IV) $55,000
Asbestosis/Pleural Disease (Level III) $0
Asbestosis/Pleural Disease (Level II) $0
Other Asbestos Disease (Level I) $0

Other Kinds of Kaiser Claims

  • Exigent claims – The Kaiser trust offers two types of exigent claims: hardship and health. Both claims provide immediate access to funds. Claimants must provide documentation that proves dire financial or medical needs and the need is a direct consequence of the asbestos injury.
  • Extraordinary claims – Claimants can file an extraordinary claim if they developed an asbestos-related disease as a result of working exclusively at a Kaiser manufacturing plant. The claimant must have worked at the Kaiser plant during the time the company used asbestos and meet the medical criteria for disease levels IV through VIII. All extraordinary claims undergo the individual review process and may be eligible for an award of five times the scheduled value of the appropriate disease level.
  • Secondary exposure claims – Claimant’s family members can seek compensation under the individual review process if the family member has developed one of the eight compensable disease levels.

Like all other asbestos trusts, Kaiser only pays a portion of the settlement amount to ensure there will be enough funding for all future claims. The payment percentage fluctuates, largely based on the current market situation and the number of anticipated claims. On April 1, 2019, Kaiser lowered its payment percentage from 35% to 25%. That means an individual with an approved expedited mesothelioma claim will receive $17,500 (25% of $70,000 = $17,500).


Kaiser Trust Litigation and Lawsuits

Before the Kaiser bankruptcy was finalized, the company faced about 112,000 asbestos-related legal claims. The company manufactured products that contained asbestos from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Over the years, Kaiser Aluminum settled scores of asbestos-related lawsuits, including:

  • A $39,675 settlement to a worker who was exposed to Kaiser asbestos products. Henry Barabin was exposed while working in a refinery and paper mill and received settlements from 17 companies that used asbestos, totaling nearly $765,000.
  • A $2.5 million jury award to a man who worked at industrial plants in the northwest United States. John Henderson was a member of the Aluminum, Brick and Glass Union in Wenatchee, Washington, and was regularly exposed to asbestos.

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Reviewed by Daniel Wasserberg

Attorney and On-Site Legal Advocate

Daniel Wasserberg was a New York metropolitan area “Super Lawyer Rising Star” from 2013 to 2018 (attorneys under age 40), and a Super Lawyer in 2019. In 2017, Daniel was named a “Top 100 Civil Litigator” by the National Trial Lawyers organization. This recognition is rarely awarded to attorneys under the age of 40. Daniel is proud to call himself a Trial Lawyer, and is often asked to speak at gatherings of the nation’s leading attorneys, from both sides of the bar.

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