Porter Hayden’s History with Asbestos
Porter Hayden Company sold and installed asbestos insulation for more than 60 years to various industrial sites and businesses. It used asbestos insulation manufactured by other companies and did not manufacture asbestos products.
Although Porter Hayden was a distributor of asbestos-containing products, not a manufacturer, it is still held liable for the harm caused by asbestos exposure in the places where insulation was installed.
Asbestos fibers were widely used in insulation products throughout the 20th century because the fibers provided strength, durability and heat resistance.
Porter Hayden sold and installed asbestos insulation from the 1920s until approximately 1973. Its employees continued to work with pre-existing asbestos insulation materials through the 1980s and possibly into the early 1990s.
The company eventually faced tens of thousands of asbestos lawsuits from former employees and industrial workers who were exposed to Porter Hayden installations in their workplace. The company couldn’t handle the financial strain of asbestos litigation and it eventually went bankrupt and ceased operations.
Development of the Porter Hayden Asbestos Bodily Injury Trust
In March 2002, Porter Hayden filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. After filing for bankruptcy, the company ceased all sales and operations. It reorganized and emerged from bankruptcy protection on June 30, 2006.
The reorganization plan created the Porter Hayden Asbestos Bodily Injury Trust, which began accepting claims in 2007.
The trust was established with an estimated $40 million to handle asbestos claims. The current payment percentage is 1.8%.
In October 2021, the trustees announced policy changes to submitting claims in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Electonic signatures are now accepted on exposure evidence documents and the signature of one witness is allowed on release forms in lieu of notarization.
Asbestos Litigation Involving Porter Hayden
In August 1976, the first asbestos claim against Porter Hayden was filed. Since then, an estimated 58,000 lawsuits were filed.
In order to handle thousands of cases, several were consolidated in the Baltimore Circuit Court during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1992, a jury awarded over $11.2 million to one consolidated case with three plaintiffs. Thereafter, thousands of plaintiffs participated in “mini trials.” Finally, the sheer number of claims led to the company filing for bankruptcy.
Other cases were barred because plaintiffs waited too long to file them.
Lapka’s Case Against Porter Hayden
In the 1999 case of Kazimierz Lapka and Emilia Lapka v. Porter Hayden Company, Porter Hayden’s lawyers argued the plaintiff should have known his condition was caused by asbestos and filed his claim sooner.
Kazimierz Lapka was employed as a chemical operator and hot melt operator from 1967 to 1984 at the Essex Chemical Corporation in Sayreville, Pennsylvania. One of his duties involved mixing pigments with powdered asbestos.
In 1981, chest X-rays showed pleural thickening and other changes to his lungs. However, Lapka’s lawyers argued that he never received a definitive diagnosis until 1984, but the court still barred his claim.
Litigation Against Insurance Providers
Porter Hayden was also involved in asbestos litigation against its insurance providers. One of the company’s liability insurers, Commercial Union, denied coverage and several legal proceedings ensued between the companies.
Unfortunately, as the two companies argued in court for years, a number of claims remained unpaid.
In 2014, Porter Hayden reached a settlement agreement with AIG-related insurers, including Commercial Union, after almost 14 years of litigation.
The dispute involved AIG policies, and how they would apply to liabilities assumed by the Porter Hayden’s asbestos trust fund. In the settlement, Porter Hayden’s trust received $15 million to handle asbestos claims.
Workers at Risk of Exposure to Asbestos Products Installed by Porter Hayden
The occupations most at risk of working around Porter Hayden’s asbestos insulation installations include:
- Chemical plant workers
- Power plant workers
- Tobacco factory workers
- Oil refinery workers
- Paper mill workers
- Metal workers
- Brewery workers
- Distillery workers
- Shipyard workers
- Veterans of the armed forces
Porter Hayden delivered and installed asbestos-containing installation at the Bethlehem Steel plant in Sparrows Point, Maryland.
Company workers installed insulation in other states including:
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- New York
Insulation installers who worked for Porter Hayden were continuously exposed to asbestos, especially if they were involved with the cutting, sawing or grinding of asbestos insulation materials.
Such processes had a tendency to release large clouds of asbestos-containing dust into the air, which could pose a serious health hazard if inhaled by workers nearby. This kind of exposure puts workers at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.
Porter Hayden’s History
The Porter Hayden Company was formed in 1966 as the result of a merger between H.W. Porter & Co. Inc. of New Jersey and Reid Hayden Inc. of Maryland.
The two companies were selling and installing asbestos insulation in industrial facilities along the mid-Atlantic region since the 1920s, and Porter Hayden continued this work until the 1990s.
In 1989, the company stopped taking new insulation installation contracts, and by 1992 it ended all operations involving insulation installation.
Within a decade, the cost of asbestos litigation forced the company to file for bankruptcy and it eventually shut down all operations.