Pittsburgh Corning Asbestos Trust
Pittsburgh Corning is facing hundreds of thousands of personal-injury claims. The company’s Unibestos product was made from amosite asbestos and found in pipe insulation and insulation blocks. The asbestos product was so dangerous that federal regulators forced the company’s Tyler, Texas, plant closed in 1972 and the equipment buried. Amosite asbestos is known to cause mesothelioma.
The Pittsburgh Corning trust is one of the largest in the country, totaling $3.5 billion. Litigation against the company, which is jointly owned by PPG and Corning, began in 1977 with 477 former employees of the Texas plant filing a class action that was later settled for $20 million. Just before the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2000, it resolved some 200,000 injury lawsuits. Another 235,000 were put on hold during the 16-year bankruptcy proceeding that ended in April 2016.
Employees who worked at Pittsburgh Corning plants in Tyler, Texas, and Port Allegany, Pennsylvania, are at risk for developing mesothelioma. Workers at naval facilities, shipyards, steel mills, oil refineries, petrochemical plants and industrial sites are also at risk for developing asbestos-related diseases if any Unibestos product was used. The following is a short list of occupations at risk:
Pittsburgh Corning knowingly exposed their workers to products that contained asbestos. The following occupations represent the highest risk jobs for asbestos exposure.
- General contractors
- Insulation workers
- Field service technicians
- Refinery specialists
- Heavy machine operators
How was the Trust Formed?
Court documents show Pittsburgh Corning may have known about the dangers associated with asbestos as early as 1962, but kept it hidden to increase profits. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after being overwhelmed with asbestos-related legal claims. After years of legal wrangling, the courts finally accepted the reorganization plan in 2016, which included the trust funding agreement.
Pittsburgh Corning was founded in 1937 as a joint venture between two prominent glassmakers. In 1962, the company entered into an agreement with Unarco Industries to purchase its Unibestos product line. Unibestos was made from a mixture of ingredients that included diatomaceous earth, water and asbestos that was shipped from Africa in large open sacs. Unibestos contained up to 90 percent amosite asbestos, one of the deadliest forms of the mineral.
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Pittsburgh Corning Trust Distribution
The Pittsburgh Corning Trust, like other asbestos trust funds, pays a set percentage of the amount requested. For Pittsburgh Corning, the trust payment percentage is 37 percent. The claims payment ratio, or the percentage of annual claims paid for malignant and nonmalignant diseases, is 60 percent to 40 percent. That means 60 percent of the overall trust money goes to malignant patients and 40 percent goes to nonmalignant patients. This allows the trust money to be more evenly distributed among all claimants.
Asbestos trust funds were established in the early 1980s in response to a flood of corporate bankruptcies over asbestos liabilities. The courts recognized injured employees and consumers had a right to financial compensation and require at-fault companies to establish asbestos bankruptcy trusts to provide financial assistance. The amount of funding in each trust depends on a number of factors, including level of injury and number of claimants. In the six years between 2006 and 2012 some $15 billion in asbestos claims were paid overall.
Pittsburgh Corning Asbestos History
Pittsburgh Corning was warned in 1961, before it entered into the deal with Unarco, about the dangers of asbestos. Richard Gaze, the chief scientist for Cape Industries, a U.K.-based asbestos manufacturer, told Corning officials about necessary precautions to protect workers from the dangers. He consulted with the company over the course of ten years.
From 1962 to 1972, Pittsburgh Corning manufactured Unarco’s Unibestos product line in Texas and Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh Corning hired Morton Corn, a former head Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to examine the environmental conditions at both plants from 1964 to 1971. Despite his recommendation changes be made to improve ventilation and worker access to asbestos, little was done. The company stopped producing the products in 1972.
Pittsburgh Corning Asbestos Products
Additional products in the Pittsburgh Corning and Unibestos lines included the following:
- Temp-mat asbestos blanket
- High-temperature pipe insulation
- Rubberized gaskets
- Molded sheet insulation
- Molded block insulation
- Fitzgerald, Patrick. “After 16 Years, Pittsburgh Corning Exits Asbestos-Related Bankruptcy.” April 27, 2016. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/pittsburgh-corning-exits-bankruptcy-after-16-years-1461761950
- Rand Corp. “Asbestos Litigation.” Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/topics/asbestos-litigation.html
- U.S. Government Accountability Office. “Asbestos injury compensation. The role and administration of asbestos trusts.” Retrieved from http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/585380.pdf