Quick Facts About Owens-Illinois, Inc.
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    Years Operated:
    1929 - Present
  • gray building icon
    Perrysburg, Ohio
  • businessman icon standing next to a globe
    Manufactured glass containers and insulation
  • icon of a building with a dollar sign on it
    Asbestos Trust:
    Pending court approval
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    Bankruptcy Status:
    Filed 2020

Owens-Illinois’ History with Asbestos 

O-I Glass, formerly known as Owens-Illinois Inc., manufactured a line of asbestos pipe and boiler insulation products between 1944 and 1958 under the brand name Kaylo, which it sold to Owens Corning in 1958. 

By 1948, the director of research for Owens-Illinois, A.J. Vorwald of Saranac Laboratories, had begun testing the effects of asbestos on guinea pigs.

The guinea pigs were exposed to asbestos-containing Kaylo dust for more than two and a half years. After the tests, Vorwald said he found “unmistakable evidence of asbestosis.” Owens-Illinois failed to act on this information and continued to use asbestos in Kaylo products.

Former employees of Owens-Illinois and people who worked with Kaylo products have developed asbestos-related diseases, and many have since filed lawsuits against the company. 

According to a 2020 company report, O-I Glass has paid out approximately $5 billion to resolve more than 401,200 asbestos lawsuits. Under the weight of these lawsuits, the company filed for bankruptcy reorganization. 

Owens-Illinois’ Bankruptcy Plan

In February 2022, O-I Glass reported that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware had approved its disclosure statement regarding soliciting votes on its bankruptcy reorganization plan. The plan must receive enough votes from eligible asbestos plaintiffs to be approved by the court. 

The company announced in January 2022 the filing of its reorganization plan for Paddock Enterprises, a subsidiary it created that absorbed its asbestos liabilities. 

Paddock first filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2020. Once approved, the reorganization plan will establish a trust fund to handle all future asbestos claims.

O-I Glass plans to fund the trust with $610 million.

Owens-Illinois and Asbestos Litigation

The first asbestos-related lawsuit against Owens-Illinois Inc. was filed in 1981. By the end of 1997, the company had settled 210,000 asbestos claims and had 14,000 claims pending.

According to a May 2019 company report, it paid $71 million in asbestos claims in the first quarter of 2019 alone. Between 2015 and 2018, it paid out $105 million of an estimated $817 million in asbestos liabilities.

  • In June 2013, a California jury awarded $27.3 million to Rose-Marie Grigg, who claimed she developed mesothelioma from secondary exposure to Owens-Illinois’ asbestos products. She laundered clothes for her husband, who worked from 1950 to 1958 as an insulator for a company that used Kaylo insulation.
  • In March 2011, an Illinois jury awarded Charles Gillenwater a total of $90 million in damages for his mesothelioma lawsuit. In the 1970s, Gillenwater worked at different construction sites as a pipefitter, where he handled asbestos products made by Owens-Illinois, Honeywell International Inc., Pneumo Abex and John Crane Inc. Gillenwater filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers claiming they used asbestos in their products despite having evidence of its health risks.
  • In August 2001, a Texas jury awarded $11.1 million to Robert Hutchison, who sued Owens-Illinois and Combustion Engineering claiming their asbestos insulation products caused him to develop mesothelioma. Hutchison cut Kaylo pipe insulation and had to sweep up the asbestos-contaminated debris that his work generated.

A qualified mesothelioma attorney can review your case to determine if you are eligible for compensation because of exposure to Kaylo products. 

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Owens-Illinois’ Asbestos Products & Occupations at Risk

Asbestos-containing products manufactured by Owens-Illinois include Kaylo block insulation and Kaylo pipe covering. 

Both products came in long sections that required cutting to fit around pipes and equipment of varying sizes. Cutting released asbestos from Kaylo products, which contained about 15% asbestos.

Owens-Illinois factory workers who manufactured these asbestos-containing products faced the highest risks of exposure.

Factory workers who didn’t manufacture asbestos products were also at risk of exposure for two reasons.

First, airborne asbestos fibers circulate throughout the air. That means asbestos fibers could be found throughout the factory, not just in areas where asbestos products were made.

Second, many other asbestos products were used in the factory. Anyone who worked around boilers, furnaces, ovens, pipes, valves and gaskets may have encountered asbestos products.

Insulators, construction workers and pipefitters who worked with Kaylo insulation were at risk of asbestos exposure. During the post-World War II housing boom, these insulation products were some of the most popular.

Other occupations at risk of exposure to Kaylo products include drywall installers, electricians and plumbers. 

A 2015 report in The British Medical Journal analyzed rates of asbestos-related deaths in Belgium between 2001 and 2009. The data show that former asbestos-industry workers are 40 times more likely to die of mesothelioma than the general population.

O-I Company History

Michael J. Owens invented the first glass bottle manufacturing machine and in 1903 created the Owens Bottle Machine Company. Early success allowed the company to acquire the Illinois Glass Company in 1929, which is when it became known as Owens-Illinois Glass Company. 

Owens-Illinois went on to acquire many glass bottle companies and their patents. The plastic boom during the 1950s and 1960s brought the company into manufacturing plastic containers. At the start of the 1970s, Owens-Illinois offered more than 2,800 items, but scaled back to roughly 800 items by the end of the decade.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the company closed several of its glass bottle factories because of bottle bills. The bills enforced a deposit for the use of all glass containers to discourage littering, which drastically impacted the demand for glass bottles.  

In December 2019, the company completed a corporate modernization, adopted a new holding structure and changed its name to O-I Glass Inc. In 2021, the company reported an annual revenue of $6.3 billion.