Foster Wheeler’s History with Asbestos
Foster Wheeler was an equipment supplier that served engineering, construction and power generation industries. The company was formed in 1927 when Power Specialty merged with Wheeler Condenser & Engineering Company.
Foster Wheeler provided project management, oil refinery design and construction, liquefied natural gas terminals, petrochemical plants and boilers for vessels and coal-fired power plants. In 2015, the company was acquired and merged with John Wood Group.
For many decades, Foster Wheeler manufactured and distributed asbestos-containing products. It supplied asbestos-containing steam condensers, pumps, heat exchangers, super heaters and boiler components to the U.S. Navy and boilers to the U.S. Merchant Marine.
Foster Wheeler teetered on the brink of bankruptcy in 2001, but the company streamlined its operations and pulled through. It was acquired by AMEC in 2014, forming Amec Foster Wheeler, but a downturn in the energy industry left it in considerable debt.
In October 2017, the John Wood Group acquired Amec Foster Wheeler, its primary competitor, and merged the company into its business operations.
By 2006, Foster Wheeler paid an estimated $700 million toward 300,000 asbestos claims. About 165,000 were still pending in 2006 and thousands more were filed thereafter. Foster Wheeler continues to pay settlements solely from its insurance coverage and has not established an asbestos trust fund.
A company Foster Wheeler acquired in 1973, Forty-Eight Insulations Company, established a $1.8 million asbestos trust in 1995, which is now inactive.
If you were exposed to Foster Wheeler’s asbestos products, you have legal options to seek compensation. It is best to speak with an experienced mesothelioma attorney who can guide you on how to file an asbestos claim for exposure to Foster Wheeler’s products.
Asbestos Litigation Involving Foster Wheeler
As a result of extensive asbestos use, thousands of workers injured by Foster Wheeler products have sued the company. The cases often involve a single plaintiff, but sometimes courts combine multiple plaintiffs into one suit.
Many Foster Wheeler cases have been settled out of court, some were dismissed and others received a jury verdict.
- In 2019, a Louisiana appellate panel upheld a $2.25 million verdict awarded to Lynda Berry, a woman with mesothelioma. She sued Foster Wheeler and other asbestos manufacturers for supplying asbestos products to a paper mill where her husband worked. Berry was exposed to asbestos through washing her husband’s work clothes.
- In 2009, Betty McBride filed suit against Foster Wheeler and two Florida power plants, including Smith Power Plant and Crist Power Plant. McBride’s husband, Woodrow, was exposed to asbestos as an employee of the power plants between 1968 and 1996. He died of lung cancer in 2005. A jury awarded McBride $1 million and ordered Foster Wheeler to pay $250,000 in damages.
- One high-profile case against Foster Wheeler resulted in one of the largest asbestos verdicts in California history. Alfred Todak sued Foster Wheeler after developing pleural mesothelioma. At the center of the suit was Foster Wheeler’s asbestos-containing marine boiler, which exposed Todak to asbestos fibers while he worked as a naval electrician. A San Francisco jury found Foster Wheeler liable for Todak’s injuries, awarding him $22.7 million in damages. Todak’s wife received $11 million for loss of consortium.
Foster Wheeler’s Asbestos Products
Foster Wheeler made the following asbestos-containing products:
- Boiler components
- Marine boilers
- Refractory block insulation
- Roving material
- Steam generators
- Steel drums
Foster Wheeler manufactured various high-temperature products, including boilers, heaters and steam generators. To prevent overheating and fire risks, many components within these products contained varying percentages of asbestos.
The company’s asbestos-containing marine boilers and boiler parts were used by the U.S. Navy.
In World War II, for example, Foster Wheeler supplied the U.S. Navy and U.S. Merchant Marine with boilers and related equipment for battleships, liberty ships and destroyers. The boilers contained gaskets, insulation and refractory materials that, in accordance with Navy specifications, contained large amounts of asbestos.
Foster Wheeler’s Occupations at Risk
- U.S. veterans of the armed forces
- Foster Wheeler manufacturing plant workers
- Boiler workers
- Plant operators
- Factory workers
The company’s marine-grade asbestos products exposed many veterans of the U.S. armed forces, especially members of the Navy and Merchant Marine. Military personnel are the primary claimants that have filed asbestos personal injury claims against the company.
Many Navy veterans, including shipyard workers, boiler workers and pipefitters, were exposed to these products and later developed asbestos-related diseases. A 2022 report by the European Commission noted that in 2019 alone, over 70,000 workers died from past exposure to asbestos.
In 2019, the International Journal of Radiation Biology published a study of mesothelioma among 114,000 U.S. veterans. The mesothelioma death rate was six times higher for former Navy personnel, including boiler technicians, pipefitters and machinist’s mates.
Foster Wheeler employees who worked in manufacturing plants were also at risk of dangerous asbestos exposure. These workers regularly handled asbestos-containing materials while producing boilers, steam-generating equipment and pumps.