Years Operated: 1962 - present
Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia
Business: Manufactures building products
Asbestos Trust: No
Bankruptcy Status: Not bankrupt
The origins of Bestwall Gypsum stem from the invention of the first gypsum wallboard, Beaver Products’ Bestwall gypsum board. The product changed hands when CertainTeed Corporation purchased Beaver Products in 1928. CertainTeed was the third-largest U.S. manufacturer and distributor of gypsum products, specializing in wall plaster and wallboard.
By the late 1950s, Bestwall grew to be so successful that stockholders approved a spin-off company, Bestwall Gypsum Company. In addition to its signature gypsum wallboard, Bestwall manufactured other wall construction products such as spackling and joint compound products. Georgia-Pacific Corporation, a leading manufacturer of paper and related construction products, purchased Bestwall Gypsum in 1965.
Throughout the years of asbestos use at Bestwall Gypsum, the company was well aware of the mineral’s adverse effects. Executives at Bestwall Gypsum and Georgia-Pacific failed to disclose the negative information to employees or consumers. Bestwall Gypsum products contained asbestos as a major component in joint compounds until U.S. laws mandated its discontinuation in 1977.
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Beginning in the 1980s, employees and customers who developed asbestos-related diseases traced their exposure back to Bestwall Gypsum and Georgia-Pacific. Georgia-Pacific encountered thousands of lawsuits for exposing workers and consumers to a carcinogen and concealing their research. As of January 2005, Georgia-Pacific addressed 344,300 asbestos claims, costing the company a total of $830 million.
Merlin Olsen, a professional football Hall of Fame player, filed a publicized asbestos case involving Georgia-Pacific. A former actor on the hit television show “Little House on the Prairie” and a color analyst for NFL games after he retired from football, Olsen was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009 and filed a lawsuit later that year. Georgia-Pacific and CertainTeed, in conjunction with Bestwall Gypsum, were among the 38 named defendants, which included high-profile companies such as NBC and Twentieth Century Fox.
According to his suit, Olsen claimed he was first exposed to asbestos as a pre-teen when he performed manual labor after school. He said he used various products – known carcinogens – manufactured by the defendants. He claimed to have been exposed later in life, especially during his time working for NBC as a broadcaster and for Twentieth Century Fox as an actor. The suit was not resolved by the time Olsen died of malignant mesothelioma complications in 2010. Olsen’s lawsuit was settled by his widow, Susan Olsen, in 2011.
Georgia-Pacific incorporated asbestos into most of their products, including gypsum board and joint compounds, which workers use to fill gaps between pieces of wallboard. Employees of Bestwall Gypsum/Georgia-Pacific may have encountered asbestos on a daily basis, breathing in the dangerous fibers released into the air from production materials. Asbestos was also used to insulate factory machinery and make fireproof clothing.
Construction workers, shipyard workers and maintenance workers may have been exposed to asbestos while using the above products or while mixing and sanding joint compound. Workers applied asbestos-containing joint compounds to drywall in the initial building phases of homes and businesses, and homeowners often used the product to repair dents or holes in their walls.
Bestwall Gypsum manufactured a variety of asbestos-containing building materials, including gypsum wall board, joint compounds and spackle Georgia-Pacific manufactured and sold the following asbestos products from 1950-1977:
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