Abex Corporation was a longtime manufacturer of asbestos friction products such as brake linings for trains and cars. Today, a claims settlement trust exists to cover damages awarded to asbestos-exposure victims through personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.
Years Operated: 1928-1978
Headquarters: Portsmouth, Virginia
Business: Originated as brass foundry and later produced asbestos brakes
Asbestos Trust: Yes
Bankruptcy Status: Filed in 2001
Amount in Trust: $307 million
Year Created: 2011
The Abex Corporation began in 1928 as American Brake Shoe and Foundry, a Virginia-based company that produced brakes and wheels for railroad cars. With the rise of the automobile and airplane industries, the business expanded into the production of hydraulic systems for airplanes and ships, brake linings for cars and other basic friction parts.
Abex relied on asbestos to prevent its products from sparking under friction and catching fire. Long after doctors recognized the dangers of asbestos exposure, and even after engineers devised alternatives to asbestos materials, Abex continued to use asbestos heavily in its products until its merger with Pneumo Corporation in 1978 effectively shut down the original Abex manufacturing facility.
Later in 1990, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared the old Abex plant and surrounding areas a Superfund site after discovering extreme soil contamination.
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Many of Abex’s employees were metalworkers, and many construction workers used the corporation’s products. Because they came into frequent contact with asbestos in Abex’s products and manufacturing equipment, these workers have an elevated risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. In addition, railroad and automobile mechanics often inhaled asbestos dust when installing or servicing Abex brake pads.
Today, stricken workers and retirees can receive compensation from Abex through personal injury lawsuits. Abex’s successor companies set up the Pneumo Abex Asbestos Claims Settlement Trust specifically for this purpose.
In 2009, for example, Charles Gillenwater sued several companies, including Pnuemo Abex, after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He had worked with asbestos-containing products as a pipefitter in the 1970s and never been warned of the associated health risks. A jury awarded him a total of $9.6 million in compensatory damages.
In 2010, retired mechanic Gordon Bankhead filed a personal injury lawsuit against Pneumo Abex after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. He had serviced and repaired heavy duty vehicles using asbestos-containing brake pads from 1965 to 1999. He was awarded nearly $4 million in damages, and then after he passed away a year later, his family was awarded an additional $11 million in a wrongful death lawsuit.
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