J.T. Thorpe used refractory materials containing the toxic mineral in the installation of heavy industrial equipment throughout California during the peak decades of asbestos use in the U.S. Today, a special trust fund exists to compensate workers harmed by asbestos exposure.
Years Operated: 1906 – present
Headquarters: Northern California
Business: Industrial refractory contractor
Asbestos Trust: Yes
Bankruptcy Status: Filed in 2002, emerged in 2006
Amount in Trust: $141 million
Year Created: 2006
J.T. Thorpe Inc. was founded in 1906 in San Francisco, California, and eventually grew to become one of the top refractory contractor businesses in the United States.
Refractory contractors construct and repair industrial equipment that operates in extremely high-temperature or acidic conditions such as steam boilers, furnaces and chemical refining machinery. The engineering challenges involved in these dangerous installations go beyond the construction trades, making the expertise of refractory contractors essential to power plants, shipyards, oil refineries and other heavy industries.
For much of J.T. Thorpe’s history, asbestos was a primary ingredient in many of the refractory materials the company used. Many manufacturing and construction companies of the 20th century celebrated the naturally occurring mineral for its ability to increase the heat resistance and durability of almost any construction material it is mixed into.
To protect their profits, executives denied any knowledge of the mineral’s lethal toxicity until the weight of the evidence against them finally led to a deluge of lawsuits in the 1970s and 1980s. J.T. Thorpe ceased using asbestos-containing materials but too late to avoid the legal consequences.
The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2002 and emerged four years later. Today, the company is known as J.T. Thorpe & Sons Inc.
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Many J.T. Thorpe employees who worked with refractory materials were subjected to long-term occupational asbestos exposure, which increased their risk of developing asbestos-related diseases such as pleural mesothelioma and asbestosis later in life. Employees of the businesses that contracted J.T. Thorpe have also suffered asbestos exposure while working in proximity to the company’s installations.
Workers at risk of asbestos exposure from refractory materials included:
To emerge from bankruptcy, J.T. Thorpe had to create the J.T. Thorpe Settlement Trust to provide compensation to present and future victims of asbestos exposure. Since its creation in 2006, the trust has compensated more than 4,500 claimants, and it paid out more than $8 million in 2016.
There are two other asbestos settlement trust funds with very similar names:
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