CertainTeed’s History with Asbestos
From the 1930s through 1993, CertainTeed produced many asbestos-containing products, including cement pipes, roof coating and other construction materials. During this time, asbestos was an affordable mineral that was added to many construction materials to make them stronger and resistant to heat.
CertainTeed’s products were used in a variety of industries beyond construction, including shipbuilding and water utilities. Many workers in these industries developed asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma, and sued CertainTeed for compensation to cover lost wages and medical costs.
Since 2002, the company’s asbestos liabilities have cost it more than $2 billion. Until 2020, CertainTeed was handling its asbestos liabilities on an annual basis to avoid resorting to bankruptcy.
Under the weight of 60,000 outstanding asbestos lawsuits, 3,200 of which were in active litigation, the company restructured and created a division that filed for bankruptcy.
Development of the CertainTeed Asbestos Trust
In October 2019, the company underwent a restructuring that established two business entities: DBMP LLC and CertainTeed LLC.
The restructuring allocated all of CertainTeed’s asbestos liabilities to DBMP, which filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 23, 2020. This action allowed CertainTeed to continue operations without involvement in DBMP’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.
DBMP’s filing listed debt and assets of as much as $1 billion. Bankruptcy proceedings will soon establish how much money will go into a trust fund to handle current and future asbestos claims.
Asbestos Litigation Involving CertainTeed
CertainTeed was listed as a defendant in tens of thousands of asbestos lawsuits in recent decades. In 2017, 3,100 asbestos claims were filed against the company, and another 2,600 were filed in 2018.
CertainTeed has paid out millions in settlements and verdict awards, including at least one nine-figure court loss.
- In the California case Evans v. A.W. Chesterton Co., Rhonda Evans, the wife of a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power employee of 25 years, developed mesothelioma. The secondhand exposure came from washing her husband’s clothes for 25 years. Her husband had worked with CertainTeed’s asbestos-containing products, which she claimed caused her cancer. Evans was awarded $208.8 million in April 2010 by a Central District Los Angeles Superior Court jury.
- In Pierce v. CertainTeed Corporation, a 70-year-old retired machine operator and supervisor filed a lawsuit against CertainTeed, claiming his cancer was caused by exposure to its asbestos products. Ralph Pierce was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2003, which he said was caused by exposure to CertainTeed’s asbestos cement pipes. He was exposed while working at the West Contra Costa County Wastewater District from 1972 to 1997. He was awarded more than $3.4 million by a San Francisco jury in May 2005.
- In 1987, Central Wesleyan College (now Southern Wesleyan University) in Central, South Carolina, filed a lawsuit on behalf of a class of public and private colleges and universities that had experienced property damage because of asbestos in their facilities. Settlements in the case reached an aggregate of more than $40 million. At least 30 lawsuits went to trial, with results split between property owners and defendants, and some 14,000 claims were left pending against CertainTeed.
- In February 2018, an Arizona state court cleared CertainTeed from a $5 million asbestos wrongful death lawsuit. The jury ruled that the building materials company was not responsible for the death of Francisco Herrera, whose family claimed he developed mesothelioma after years of inhaling dust generated by sawing asbestos cement pipes. Attorneys for CertainTeed successfully argued that the jury did not have sufficient evidence to identify CertainTeed’s pipes as the primary cause of Herrera’s cancer.
CertainTeed’s Asbestos Products
Asbestos-containing products sold under the CertainTeed brand include:
- Asbestos Cement Sheets
- Asbestos Base Flashing
- Asbestos Cap Sheet
- Asbestos Roof Coating
- Asbestos Cement Pipe
- Asphalt Foundation Coating
- Base Sheet
- Blind Nailing Cement
- Cold Process Asphalt
- Cold Process Cement
- Flexible Trainline
- Joint Treating Compound
- Plastic Cement
- Sealing Cement
- Stabilized Roof Coating
- Wet Seal Plastic Cement
CertainTeed products that were used by the Navy include:
- Cement pipe
- Roof coating
- Cold process cement
- Joint treating compound
- Plastic cement
- Sealing cement
CertainTeed’s asbestos products contained between 4% and 29% asbestos. The company used both chrysotile asbestos and crocidolite asbestos. Crocidolite is considered even more carcinogenic than chrysotile.
CertainTeed employees and workers who used these products on the job were exposed when CertainTeed’s products were repaired, maintained, removed or disturbed in any way that released asbestos fibers into the air.
Occupational exposure is one of the leading causes of death associated with asbestos. A 2022 report by the European Commission noted that in 2019 alone, over 70,000 workers died from past exposure to asbestos.
CertainTeed Occupations at Risk
The occupations at risk of exposure to CertainTeed’s products include:
- Construction workers
- Home repair workers
- Demolition workers
- Road workers
- Navy veterans
Workers employed at CertainTeed manufacturing plants faced high levels of asbestos exposure. Several of these plants have become Superfund sites managed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Some of these CertainTeed Superfund sites are located in Ambler, Pennsylvania; St. Louis, Missouri; and Alviso, California.
People living in the neighborhoods around these plants have also been diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
The General Roofing Manufacturing Company was founded in 1904 by George M. Brown. In 1917, it changed its name to CertainTeed, which was derived from the company’s slogan, “Quality made certain, satisfaction guaranteed.”
In 1988, CertainTeed became a wholly owned subsidiary of Saint-Gobain, one of the world’s largest building materials companies.
Today, CertainTeed remains one of the top construction materials companies in the U.S.
It manufactures roofing, siding, trim, fencing, foundations, windows, insulation, pipes, ceilings and other construction materials. The company also invests in the development of environmentally friendly building materials.
Approximately 6,300 people are employed in 60 facilities around the U.S. and Canada.