Years Operated: 1925-present
Headquarters: Mokena, Illinois
Business: Refractory Heat Enclosures
Asbestos Trust: Yes
Bankruptcy Status: Filed Jan. 13, 1998. Reorganization confirmed Aug. 21, 2002
Amount in Trust: $3 million
Year Created: 2002
Since before World War I, the M.H. Detrick Company constructed heat enclosures to particular specifications, designing furnace linings and protecting boiler piping. Since its inception, Detrick has completed more than 30,000 jobs throughout the world. After opening in the 1920s, Detrick became one of the industry leaders in producing structural steel and refractory linings for heat enclosures like furnaces, ovens and boiler pipes.
As it grew through the second half of the century, Detrick crafted a niche in products that could isolate and contain heat. It manufactured refractory tiles designed to withstand extremely high temperatures, thanks to asbestos.
The heat resistant and fire-proofing properties of asbestos made it the perfect match for products Detrick made. It also was flexible, durable and relatively inexpensive as a naturally occurring mineral that was easily mined. In fact, few companies made as much from asbestos as Detrick. The abundant use of asbestos led to thousands of lawsuits and millions of dollars in settlement costs for the company, plus a bankruptcy filing in 1998.
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By the mid-1980s, M.H. Detrick was a target of thousands of asbestos-related lawsuits commonly included in class-action litigation alongside dozens of other co-defendants. For example, there were two separate cases filed Oct. 22, 2007, in Pennsylvania Eastern District Court with M.H. Detrick as a defendant in asbestos personal injury product liability actions. An asbestos trust was opened by Detrick on Aug. 21, 2002. The trust focused on compensating workers exposed to asbestos products between 1939 and 1964. The trust’s claim period ended on Feb. 10, 2011 and is now closed.
A lawsuit brought by Wesley Roberts Jr. and Annie Matt Roberts named Detrick among 27 defendants. Wesley Roberts was a pipefitter from 1941 to 1981 at an Exxon oil refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1994 and died a year later. Detrick was one of 26 companies that settled the claim before it went to court.
M.H. Detrick serves a variety of industries to provide suspended refractory construction of all kinds. Castings are supplied in various heat-resistant grades, and the applications can be diverse. They include heat-resistant castings, insulating materials, and pre-fired brick. Among the industries served, according to Detrick promotional material, are: Coke calcining; cement and lime; copper; steel; float, fiber and container glass; boilers; lead; aluminum; and incineration.
According to its asbestos trust, Detrick manufactured, used, sold and distributed asbestos containing products for 26 years, from 1939 through 1964.
M.H. Detrick is listed prominently in a 1990 informational litigation guide produced by attorney James H. Crosby of Mobile, Alabama. The title: “What every new lawyer needs to know and have to work in asbestos litigation.” In that guide, M.H. Detrick is under the list of Products Frequently Encountered and with an asbestos percentage in each product. They include cements, adhesives, boiler coatings, pipe covering, pipe block and refractory products.
Although Detrick’s asbestos trust was closed in 2011, the company is operating once again and among the leaders in the industry. Anyone who worked for the company during its asbestos heyday still may develop serious health issues in the future because of the lengthy latency period (10-50 years) between exposure and diagnosis.
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