Shook and Fletcher originated in 1901 as an iron, brick and coal products manufacturer. They broke into the insulation sector in 1949, and today they remain one of the largest industrial insulation producers in the southeast United States.
Until the 1970s, Shook and Fletcher predominantly used asbestos to provide the insulation component of their products. They then replaced the asbestos fibers with fiberglass and other chemicals such as polystyrene, talc and hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD).
Despite declaring bankruptcy in 2002, Shook and Fletcher now operates seven offices in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. They work with more than 30 different manufacturers to produce more than 50 specialty products. None of these products are used for residential insulation purposes.
Litigation & Specific Lawsuits
Former Shook and Fletcher employees (and people who became ill after handling Shook and Fletcher products) have filed asbestos lawsuits
against the company since the mid-1970s. When the company filed for bankruptcy in 2002, they reported at least 80,000 active asbestos lawsuits.
One such lawsuit was filed by the wife of a deceased insulator. Her husband passed away from mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure that occurred at various companies, including Shook and Fletcher. The final verdict was $8.4 million dollars, which was split among all the companies he had worked for.
The company also set up a trust fund, called the Shook & Fletcher Asbestos Settlement Trust, to handle injury payments out of court. People with asbestos-related diseases caused by Shook and Fletcher products can file a claim with MFR Claims Processing, Inc. The processing facility accepts claims from employees of at least 400 jobsites where this specific exposure occurred.
In 1993, Shook and Fletcher and 19 other asbestos manufacturers filed a class action lawsuit to settle their asbestos-related claims. This legal maneuver made its way to the Supreme Court, where the case was rejected. The company then spent six years settling agreements with all of its insurers, except for Safety National Casualty Company. Shook and Fletcher filed suit against the company for asbestos claims they handled between 1983 and 1985.
Although they reported an annual income of $22 million, Shook and Fletcher Insulation Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2002. By that time, the company had already paid more than $40 million in asbestos lawsuit settlements.
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Industries & Occupations
Asbestos fibers were once considered the ideal fireproofing material
for their ability to withstand high temperatures. As a result, insulation industry employees often came in contact with the ingredient as they worked it into products.
Shook and Fletcher employees who created the following products before the 1970s were at high risk for inhaling the fibers:
- Ceramic fiber
- Curtain wall insulation
- Mineral fiber pipe
- Plastic jacketing
More than 34 manufacturing companies helped produce Shook and Fletcher products. These companies included Dow Chemical Company, Forrest Manufacturing Company and Owens Corning Fiberglass. Employees of these partner companies also faced asbestos exposure risks when they manufactured Shook and Fletcher insulation items.
Construction workers also came into contact with asbestos when they installed or repaired the company’s products. The products remained on commercial jobsites long after the company stopped producing asbestos materials. As a result, industrial workers may have even inhaled the fibers when handling Shook and Fletcher materials after the 1970s.
Products manufactured by Shook & Fletcher (both asbestos-containing and non-asbestos-containing) include:
- Banding seals
- Ceramic fiber
- Cryogenic wool
- Fabrication equipment
- Phenolic foam
The company’s product line also includes dozens of other thermal and acoustical insulation products.
Shook & Fletcher’s Legal Response
When Shook & Fletcher filed for bankruptcy, President Wayne Killion Jr. announced that they had assets of more than $100 million and liabilities of a similar amount. In 2002, Killion explained that “we’ve been sued from every area of the country,” but continued to state that “we have a large amount of insurance coverage remaining.”