The Honeywell Heating Specialty Co. Incorporated was founded in Minneapolis in 1906 by an engineer named Mark Honeywell and specialized in hot water heat generators. The company merged with the Minneapolis Heat Regulator Company in 1927 and was renamed the Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Company, whose specialty product was thermostatic heat controls.
Mark Honeywell served the first president of the company, which eventually changed its name back to Honeywell and then expanded to international markets. Under the guidance of company president James Binger, Honeywell also diversified its product lines to include cameras, defense products, aerospace controls and computers.
In 1999 Honeywell, Inc. merged with Allied Signal, Inc. to form a company having businesses in aerospace, chemical products, automotive parts and building controls. The merger of their aerospace businesses created a $10.5 billion business serving customers in both plane manufacturing and airlines.
After the merger, the combined company renamed itself Honeywell International. With subsidiaries such as Bendix and North American Refractories Company (NARCO) becoming part of the new company as a result of the Allied Signal merger, Honeywell, Inc. inherited some legal issues concerning asbestos exposure.
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In 2002, a $53.5 million asbestos judgment was awarded to the wife of Stephen Brown, a former automobile brake mechanic who died of mesothelioma in 2000. Not only was Honeywell responsible for paying 2.35 percent of the judgment because its Bendix division was found responsible for Brown’s death, but it was also responsible for ensuring that the plaintiffs received payment from bankrupt defendants named in the suit because it was the only non-bankrupt defendant.
In 2003, Honeywell tried to shed 47,000 asbestos-related cases in which it was a named defendant by selling its Bendix brake unit to a bankrupt company called Federal-Mogul. The bankruptcy filing was an attempt on Federal-Mogul’s part to settle approximately 360,000 asbestos lawsuits and future asbestos claims by establishing a trust to pay victims.
By 2004, Honeywell reported that it employed 19 full-time lobbyists on Capitol Hill. The charge for some of them was to focus on pending and future asbestos-related litigation issues. It was estimated at the time that Honeywell would save 81 percent if a national asbestos trust fund were to be set up
By 2010, Honeywell found itself a defendant in a sizeable number of asbestos lawsuits resulting from the operations of its former subsidiary North American Refractories Company (NARCO). At the time, Honeywell estimated its potential liability from asbestos litigation to be $1.1 billion.
Individuals who worked in occupations that required them to be in close proximity to the dust created by brake friction, such as mechanics and brake installers, may have been exposed to asbestos-containing products manufactured by Bendix. Those in the HVAC industry who repaired residential and commercial furnaces that contained the bricks and cement manufactured by NARCO for high temperature applications may also have risked asbestos exposure.
As a frequent acquirer of other companies, Honeywell exposed itself to liability for asbestos claims primarily through subsidiary companies and brands that it purchased. Bendix, a maker of brakes, and North American Refineries Company (NARCO), maker of asbestos cement bricks are two such companies. In addition, a large number of the asbestos-containing products made by Honeywell and its affiliates were used in the defense industry, particularly the Navy.
Matt Mauney is an award-winning journalist with nearly a decade of professional writing experience. He joined Asbestos.com in 2016, and he spends much of his time reading, analyzing and reporting on mesothelioma research articles to ensure people in the mesothelioma community know the latest medical advancements. Prior to joining Asbestos.com, Matt was a reporter at the Orlando Sentinel. Matt also edits some of the pages on the website.
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