Years Operated: 1905-present
Headquarters: Lancaster, PA
Business: Parent company of manufacturers of boilers and related HVAC products for residential, commercial and industrial applications
Asbestos Trust: No
Bankruptcy Status: Not bankrupt
Burnham Holdings was established in 1905 as a boiler manufacturer. Since then, it has become the parent company of 14 subsidiaries that manufacture boilers and related HVAC products.
Burnham Commercial, a Burnham Holdings subsidiary, also known as Burnham Corporation and Burnham LLC, has been involved in a number of asbestos-related lawsuits stemming from its asbestos-containing products.
Burnham Commercial originated in the mid-1880s when Frederick A. Lord founded a New York-based greenhouse manufacturer, then named Lord's Horticultural Manufacturing Company. In 1872, Lord's son-in-law, William Burnham, joined the company in creating memorable greenhouses for large estates in upstate New York.
Shortly after, the greenhouse industry was in need of a solution to provide adjustable and evenly distributed heat to large areas and the company manufactured its first cast iron boiler intended to keep its greenhouses heated. Lord's Horticultural Manufacturing Company later became known as the Lord & Burnham Company.
In 1905, the Lord & Burnham Company merged with the Hitchings Company, which specialized in manufacturing heating systems and ventilating apparatus' for greenhouses, and the Pierson-Sefton Company to form the Burnham-Pierson-Sefton Corporation.
Because of unknown reasons, just one year later, the companies reverted back to their original names, the Lord & Burnham Company, the Hitchings Company and the Pierson-Sefton Company, but remained incorporated and continued to expand its facilities.
By 1914, the Lord & Burnham Company built a greenhouse manufacturing plant in Des Plaines, Illinois, and in Ontario, Canada. In 1917, the company bought the Geneva boiler Works, where it manufactured and sold boilers.
By 1919, the Burnham Boiler Company was established and began to take over the boiler business from Lord & Burnham Company and its affiliated companies. The company was renamed Burnham Corporation and is currently referred to as Burnham Commercial or Burnham LLC.
Today, Burnham Commercial produces steam and hot water boilers for commercial and industrial applications. Its headquarters are in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with other facilities nationwide.
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Asbestos-related personal injury claims have been filed by individuals that were exposed to asbestos from Burnham Holdings products, more specifically, products from its Burnham Commercial facilities.
In July 2013, a New York jury awarded $190 million in an asbestos-related lawsuit involving Burnham Commercial. Five plaintiffs were exposed to asbestos while working in the plumbing, steamfitting and construction industries and as a result, developed mesothelioma cancer.
One plaintiff handled and demolished boilers that had asbestos-containing components, throughout his career. Another plaintiff, a steamfitter, handled boilers laden with asbestos-containing products, while another plaintiff, a pipefitter, worked at New York’s Brooklyn Navy Yard from 1951 and 1966 and was exposed while handling pipes of distillers that processed saltwater. The other two plaintiffs were plumbers who handled boilers and pipes covered in asbestos.
The law firm representing the plaintiffs, Weitz & Luxenberg, said this $190 million verdict is the largest asbestos-related verdict of its kind in New York history. Unfortunately, only two of the five plaintiffs lived to see the historical verdict.
Burnham Commercial’s monetary obligations totaled $42.2 million, or 21.2 percent of the total damages awarded, and Cleaver-Brooks’, another boiler manufacturing company, monetary obligations totaled $30.54 million, or 16 percent of the damages. The remaining liability was assigned to others.
Unlike many companies that manufactured asbestos-containing products, Burnham Commercial has not created a bankruptcy trust for asbestos claims. Instead, the company has decided to continue to defend itself in court against asbestos claims.
Burnham Commercial has been asked to pay millions of dollars in asbestos claims. Because of the long latency period of asbestos-related conditions — 20 to 50 years — the company should expect more lawsuits in the future as more asbestos-related conditions are diagnosed and tried in the court of law.
Burnham Holdings has 850 employees in at least 16 locations nationwide, including:
Asbestos is no longer used as widely as it was prior to the 1980s when boilers contained a number of asbestos-containing products, including insulation around the boiler’s walls, tube banks and internal pipes, gaskets, bearings to paste lagging or even raw asbestos. This is largely because of recent regulations of asbestos products.
Burnham Commercial products are sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico and are used throughout schools, government buildings, places of worship and historical sites.
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