Armstrong’s History with Asbestos
Armstrong World Industries used asbestos to insulate and fireproof their line of products. Asbestos is a toxic mineral that is naturally resistant to heat, and it was widely used as a fireproofing material.
For much of its history, the company included asbestos in insulation, cement, tiles and vinyl flooring. These products placed many construction workers at risk of asbestos exposure.
Notable asbestos products manufactured by Armstrong include:
- Accobest AS-474 Gasketing Material
- Accobest AS-8073 Gasketing Material
- Accopac AD-8024 Asbestos Paper
- Asbestos Felt
- Asbestos Flooring
- Asbestos Tile
Bankruptcy and Asbestos Trust
By 2000, Armstrong faced more than 175,000 personal injury claims related to asbestos and had an estimated potential liability of $1.4 billion.
This forced the company to file for bankruptcy in December 2000. The company reorganized on Aug. 18, 2006, setting up an asbestos trust fund to cover outstanding and future personal injury claims. On May 14, 2007, the Armstrong World Industries Asbestos Trust began accepting claims.
In its first two years, the trust received more than 200,000 claims. In October 2020, the trust updated its payment schedule, which is the percentage of a claim the trust will pay to ensure enough money remains for all present and future claims, from 26% to 19.7%. This reduced percentage remains higher than average compared to other asbestos trust funds.
Asbestos Litigation Involving Armstrong World Industries
Armstrong’s asbestos-related court battles began in the 1970 landmark case of Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation. Clarence Borel sued Armstrong and 10 other manufacturers of asbestos insulation after developing mesothelioma and asbestosis following his many years of working with their products.
This was the first case that recognized it is a manufacturer’s duty to warn of asbestos dangers, and the case became the foundation for all future asbestos claims.
Over the next few decades, thousands of new asbestos claims were brought against Armstrong. The company paid out millions of dollars because courts ruled they knowingly disregarded the health of employees and consumers by using asbestos in their products.
Miller v. Armstrong World Industries
In 1991, Miller v. Armstrong World Industries Inc. turned into a precedent-setting case for asbestos litigation.
Raymond Miller worked as an insulator from 1946 to 1951. He used asbestos products from Armstrong, but did not know asbestos was dangerous. Miller was diagnosed with pleural thickening in the early 1980s and later diagnosed with asbestosis.
Miller filed a personal injury claim against Armstrong seeking compensation for his asbestosis. Armstrong argued that Miller’s statute of limitations had passed because of his earlier diagnosis of pleural thickening. The court initially ruled in favor of Armstrong, but the summary judgment victory was overturned on appeal.
The case set a precedent under Colorado law because it held discovery of an initial asbestos-related disease did not trigger the running of Colorado’s statute of limitations on a separate disease that manifested later. In this case, the discovery of pleural thickening did not trigger the two-year statute of limitations that would have prevented Miller from filing an asbestosis claim.
Occupations Exposed to Armstrong’s Asbestos Products
Armstrong World Industries employed a team of regular plant workers to manufacture products. The company also hired temporary workers to install insulation. Before the 1980s, both teams of workers came into direct contact with asbestos.
The company’s products were widely used in residential and commercial construction as well as industrial and military settings. Aside from former Armstrong employees and contractors, trade and supervisory workers came into contact with Armstrong’s asbestos products.
Plumbers, floor tile and linoleum layers, cement masons and naval firemen are some of the other occupations at risk. While Armstrong World Industries no longer manufactures asbestos-containing products, flooring and ceiling materials produced by the company before the 1980s are still found in older buildings.
Disturbing these materials during renovations or demolitions can lead to asbestos exposure, so precautions and prevention mandates should be followed.
History of Armstrong World Industries
Founded in Pittsburgh in 1860, Armstrong World Industries originally made wine bottle corks. By the 1890s, Armstrong was the world’s largest cork company and leveraged its size and success to expand its product line.
The company soon made insulating corkboard, fiberboard and other similar products. It also began a linoleum flooring business, which led to the production of vinyl and other flooring materials.
Although this 20th-century growth was profitable for Armstrong, asbestos-related lawsuits brought against the company eventually led to its bankruptcy filing in 2000.
Now based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Armstrong’s 3,800-plus employees represent 26 manufacturing plants worldwide. Fiscal 2016 revenues totaled nearly $1.2 billion from ceiling and wall operations.
On April 1, 2016, the company separated from its successful flooring business, Armstrong Flooring, which now operates as an independent, publicly traded company.