Years Operated: 1902-present
Headquarters: Stratford, Conn.
Business: Brake products
Asbestos Trust: Yes
Bankruptcy Status: Filed in 1989; Reorganized in 2000
Amount in Trust: $52 million
Year Created: 2000
Originally formed in 1902 as the A.H. Raymond Company, it was known as Raytech and then soon changed its name to Raybestos Industries. After merging with a competitor, it became Raybestos-Manhattan and eventually Raymark Industries, building an empire around the original "Raymond Brake."
Under any name, though, the one constant of the company was the use of asbestos in its products, which has made it the target of considerable scorn and thousands of lawsuits. Asbestos may have made the products better than others and in a more cost-efficient way, but the brakes were toxic to those who worked with them.
Like many similar firms, Raymark has a long history of involvement in asbestos litigation brought by victims and family members who have suffered any number asbestos-related illnesses, including asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer.
Raymark also has a hefty history of denying any knowledge of the health problems being caused by asbestos, even though those issues were well-documented since early in the 20th century. Sumner Simpson, president of then-Raybestos for 40 years, was exposed in various legal proceedings as being instrumental in trying to cover up and hide the company's problems related to asbestos in exchange for its ongoing financial prosperity.
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The company changed its name in 1982 to Raymark, hoping to distance itself from the asbestos cloud, and it stopped making asbestos products during the 1980s. Under new CEO Craig Smith, Raymark aggressively fought off many litigants in the ’80s, even suing law firms that represented people trying to recover damages for their exposure to asbestos from decades before.
Raymark created holding companies and used spinoff companies in hopes of protecting assets against the flood of litigation. The tactics failed. In one example, Stevens v. Raymark Industries, Inc. et al., the dependent widow of a former Raymark employee was awarded benefits following her husband’s asbestosis-related death in 2000. That sort of case was repeated many times. Another important case brought by the State of Connecticut against Raymark recouped the amount spent by the state on cleanup efforts from the manufacturing plants.
Raymark sought bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7 in 1989. Raytech sought bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 the same year. It emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2001 with an asbestos liability trust. The trust is named the Raytech Corporation Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust.
Anyone who worked in a Raymark/Raytech/Raybestos manufacturing plant could have been exposed, along with anyone working on automobile repair, or machinery repair, also could have been exposed.
It wasn’t just individuals exposed to asbestos who brought Raybestos into a courtroom as a defendant. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with protecting human health and the environment, took the company to task for serious contamination issues surrounding its manufacturing plants.
The EPA cited the company for contamination related to lead, metals and solvents deposited by the company, as well as asbestos. Through the mid-1980s, Raymark facilities captured asbestos and lead with a number of shallow pools. These lagoons operated for more than 60 years and accumulated large amounts of toxic asbestos waste, as well as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), alcohol and corrosive chemicals. The pools would gradually fill to capacity, and when this occurred, they would be dredged and the toxic, solid mass was placed in landfills.
Both those working at Raymark plants and those living nearby were often affected by the products being manufactured. Health outcome data reviewed by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) revealed that Stratford, Connecticut, had higher-than-average rates of mesothelioma and all other cancers in residents under 25 years of age.
Numerous EPA investigations at Raymark’s facility in Stratford have been conducted since 1984. In 1993, the ATSDR issued a Public Health Advisory stating that people could be exposed to contaminants in the area in a number of ways, including by inhalation, skin contact, soil waste ingestion and ingestion of contaminated local seafood.
As of 1995, 41 residential properties had been positively identified as contaminated with waste from Raymark. Local public buildings such as parks and schools, where the waste was used as landscaping fill, were contaminated enough to require major cleanup operations. Raymark left a swath of hazardous contamination in its wake, with 14 Connecticut areas designated as former waste disposal sites in need of ATSDR evaluation.
Even today Raybestos remains the most recognizable name in vehicle brakes and brake parts, most notably in automobiles. The same materials used to produce car brakes were also used in trucks and trains and all large machinery that stops through the use of friction. Brakes were produced for clutches, textile industrial machinery winches, hoists and most all moving equipment.
A jury in Sacramento, California, in June of 2012, awarded a $2.1 million verdict to a California man who believes that handling asbestos brake parts were at least partly responsible for his mesothelioma cancer. Although the man was a plumber by trade, he repaired car and truck brakes as a sideline. He identified Raybestos as one of a handful of companies as the source of the brakes and brake parts that he handled. He testified that he began handling the brakes at a young age while helping his father service various trucks that he owned.
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