Frank Sullivan founded Republic Powdered Metals (RPM) in 1947 to manufacture an exclusive protective coating known as Alumanation. The company expanded over the next several years, going on to produce other industrial maintenance products such as waterproofing and rustproofing materials.
RPM distributed these products under several brand names, including:
Republic Powdered Metals purchased Reardon Company in 1966, adopting its successful Bondex brand. While the purchase significantly expanded the company’s product line, many Reardon Co. products contained dangerous asbestos materials. Ultimately, RPM inherited liability for future asbestos lawsuits filed against Reardon Co.
Over the next four decades, the company acquired additional brands, including Rustoleum and BF Goodrich. By 2010, it operated 90 manufacturing facilities in more than 20 countries. That year, despite a “healthy and profitable” business, RPM filed for bankruptcy under the strain of more than 10,000 asbestos lawsuits.
Litigation & Specific Lawsuits
A majority of the lawsuits filed against RPM stem from Reardon Company’s asbestos-containing Bondex products. In their 2010 bankruptcy filing, RPM reported more than 20,000 asbestos lawsuits that specifically name Reardon Company’s products as the source of asbestos exposure. The vast majority of these Reardon lawsuits came from six states: Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Maryland, Illinois and Ohio.
One such lawsuit, filed by a Texas-based painter, resulted in a verdict of approximately $11 million. Of the four product manufacturers named in the suit, Bondex was the only company not to agree on a settlement. Instead, Bondex went to trial, where the judge assigned them partial responsibility for the worker’s diagnosis of mesothelioma.
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Industries & Occupations
Republic Powdered Metals sold Reardon Company’s asbestos compounds until the early 1980s. The Bondex line of products included exterior finishing systems, powder coatings, fluorescent colorants and pigments, cleaning products, wood treatments and fuel additives. RPM also sold asbestos roofing products and sealants through other product lines until 1972.
RPM distributed these products to consumers in private and industrial sectors in 150 different territories. While 60 percent of its current sales come from industrial products, the remaining 40 percent comes from private consumers. As a result, people may have unknowingly inhaled asbestos released from RPM products in their homes or workplaces.
Other than RPM employees, industrial workers such as masons, painters and roofers were at the highest risk for inhaling asbestos from Bondex products. Homeowners who purchased the products to use in their own houses also faced exposure risks. These risks are relatively low for asbestos-containing textured coatings (such as RPM’s Dramex Texture Pain), but other products posed higher risks.
Some of the asbestos-containing products manufactured by RPM include:
- Bondex Ready-Mixed Joint Cement
- Dramex Ready-Mixed Finish
- Bondex All-Purpose Joint Compound
- Liquid Aluminum Coating
- Bondex All-Purpose Joint Cement
- Bontone Fibred Masonry Coating
Other examples include Triko products and Mr. Mud products.
Spike in Asbestos Claims against RPM
Bondex defended its first asbestos lawsuit in 1980. From then until 1999, RPM paid a total of $1.6 million in asbestos-related lawsuits. However, this amount drastically spiked beginning in 2000.
The amounts RPM paid per fiscal year were:
- $8.2 million in 2000
- $10.6 million in 2001
- $43.0 million in 2002
- $52.0 million in 2003
- $63.0 million in 2004
- $67.4 million in 2005
- $59.9 million in 2006
- $67.0 million in 2007
- $82.5 million in 2008
- $69.4 million in 2009
- $75.0 million in 2010
The latency period associated with asbestos-related diseases may explain this spike. Since asbestos illnesses can take 20-50 years to develop, anyone who inhaled asbestos before the company discontinued their asbestos product line may just now be developing health complications.
In 2014, Republic Powdered Metals agreed to contribute another $797.5 million to its bankruptcy trust to help fund continued claims related to Bondex International.
The agreement, filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, included $450 million in 2014, $102.5 million in 2015, $120 million in 2016 and $125 million in 2017.
5 Cited Article Sources
- Gvillo, H. (2014, September 11). Republic Powdered Metals joins Bondex in bankruptcy as part of deal. Retrieved from: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/republic-powdered-metals-joins-bondex-in-bankruptcy-as-part-of-deal
- International Directory of Company Histories: Vol 36. (2001). History of RPM, Inc. Retrieved from: http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/rpm-inc-history/
- Davis, Leslie; Mark Plevin and Tracie Yoon. (2012). "Mealey;s Asbestos Bankruptcy Report." Retrieved from: http://www.crowell.com/files/2012-mealys-asbestos-bankruptcy-report.pdf
- United States Bankruptcy Court: District of Delaware. SPHC Informational Brief. (31 May 2010).
- PR Newswire: Baron & Budd, P.C. Wins $11 Million Texas Asbestos Cancer Verdict. (30 March 2010). Retrieved from: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/baron--budd-pc-wins-11-million-texas-asbestos-cancer-verdict-89505277.html
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Last Modified April 8, 2019