Years Operated: 1914 - Present
Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois
Business: Manufacturer of refractory products and pliable brick materials
Asbestos Trust: Yes
Bankruptcy Status: Filed in 2002, reorganized in 2006
Amount in Trust: $205,600,000
Year Created: 2006
Founded in 1914, Plibrico Company LLC manufactures a complete line of high alumina- and alumino-silicate monolithic refractories for use in a variety of applications. The company also provides technical and engineering support services to assure the correct product choice and best design for its customers, who are located in North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
The company was founded by W.A.L. Schaeffer and was originally known as the Pliable Brick Company. Schaeffer recognized the fact that refractory-lined vessels of the early 20th century increased in complexity. He understood that production of brick linings would benefit from onsite fittings to the equipment. His ideas led to the development of today’s plastic refractories.
For the past two decades, the company has consistently ranked as one of the top three producers of monolithic refractories in the United States. However, to the company's detriment, legal claims stemming from Plibrico's use of asbestos forced the company into bankruptcy as it faced countless lawsuits and claims.
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Because Plibrico supplied its asbestos-containing materials to other businesses, it was difficult for plaintiffs in asbestos-related lawsuits to substantiate exposure in terms specific enough to satisfy the courts. However, asbestos-related lawsuits filed against Plibrico began to pile up in the 1980s and ‘90s and into the millennium.
The company was faced with a number of mass tort actions concerning its use of asbestos. In 2001, Plibrico was named with a number of other companies in an asbestos suit filed on behalf of the New Jersey Local 475 Steamfitters II union.
Furthermore, Plibrico and 49 other product manufacturers were the defendants in a suit filed by Cornelius C. Dykstra, a patient suffering from malignant mesothelioma. The case garnered widespread legal attention because it stated, unequivocally, that the public- and private-interest factors inherent in asbestos litigation made it a subject of national importance. By 2002, the company was forced to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy, unable to handle the weight of all the unsettled claims.
It emerged from bankruptcy four years later, and as part of its reorganization plan, established the Plibrico Asbestos Trust, or Plibrico 524(g) Trust. The trust is designed to deal with all current and future asbestos claims against the company. According to the guidelines for the Trust, all claims are processed and paid on “an impartial, first-in-first-out basis, with the goal of paying all claimants over time as equivalent a share as possible of the value of their claims.”
Plibrico manufactured pliable fire-brick materials, also known as monolithic refractories, which were used to line high-temperature furnaces, incinerators and boilers. Since the furnace linings must be capable to withstand temperatures higher than the industrial materials they processed, asbestos was frequently added. The use of this toxic material occurred until the 1970s.
Employees of the company shared an increased risk of asbestos exposure when manufacturing asbestos-containing products. Once the product made it to market, industries such as construction, shipbuilding and metalwork were affected by refractory products. Occupations that were exposed to asbestos-containing refractory materials include insulators, steamfitters, steel and iron workers, boiler workers, pipefitters, furnace men, smelter men and pourers.
Between the 1950s and the 1970s, Plibrico manufactured various asbestos-containing products including the Pilseal boiler wall coating, Pilcast Airlite, Pilcast LWI-24G, and Pilsulate insulating cement.
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