According to this old ad, the “glowing, greaseproof floor is easy to keep clean.” That would certainly sound like a dream around the holidays.
The manufacturer, Kentile Flooring, Inc., was known for ads like this one praising the durability and easy maintenance of its floor tiles.
But if you look closely, you’ll also see another alleged benefit that Kentile frequently gushed about in its ads: “sturdy asbestos fibers.”
Now the dream sounds like a nightmare. Specifically, an asbestos-laced nightmare that has caused many serious illnesses and deaths. In fact, those clean, colorful tiles you see in the ad have caused widespread injury and produced enough legal claims to send the manufacturer into bankruptcy. . . twice.
Kentile Tiles Were Used Widely
Kentile’s first bankruptcy came in 1992 when it filed to reorganize. The second time came last month when Kentile’s successor, Metex Manufacturing Company, filed for reorganization.
Kentile was founded in Brooklyn in 1898. It became well-known as a pioneer in manufacturing floor tiles, including do-it-yourself products that consumers could install themselves. By the 1950s, it was one of the largest national tile manufacturers.
But many of its popular products contained asbestos. Some tiles contained as much as 25 percent asbestos. The company eventually stopped using asbestos, but not before it was widely installed in buildings across the country.
I cringe when I imagine homeowners from the Greatest Generation through the Baby Boom installed — maybe even cut and removed — these tiles with no warning of the dangers. And what about the Kentile employees who made and handled the products every day, perhaps for years? How many of them were exposed to asbestos fibers?
Kentile Emerged from 1st Bankruptcy with Metex Name
According to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, Kentile faced an estimated 20,000 asbestos claims when it filed for reorganization in 1992. Many companies facing a lot of asbestos claims file for bankruptcy reorganization hoping to establish an asbestos trust.
These trusts allow asbestos defendants to avoid more asbestos personal injury lawsuits. They can stay in business, but they must put money into a trust to pay future claims.
Kentile wasn’t able to get an asbestos trust approved under its reorganization plan. But it did emerge from bankruptcy with a new name. In 1998, Kentile changed its name to Metex Manufacturing Corp. Metex became responsible for all of Kentile’s asbestos liabilities.
But earlier this month, Metex also filed for bankruptcy reorganization in federal court in New York. Bloomberg reports that the company has about 6000 active claims over Kentile’s asbestos tiles. Metex also hopes to establish an asbestos bankruptcy trust. We’ll have to wait to see if the court approves it this time around.
Meanwhile, if you’ve been exposed to asbestos from Kentile flooring, it’s a good idea to talk to a mesothelioma attorney about your legal options. You may be eligible to file a claim with an asbestos trust if the court decides to establish one for Metex.
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