$72.5M BASF Talc Settlement to Benefit Rubber Workers, Heirs

Legislation & Litigation

Nearly $60 million of a $72.5 million settlement reached in 2020 will go to the heirs of rubber workers sickened by asbestos-contaminated talc in Akron, Ohio. A probate court in Ohio is now handling the processing of claims for deceased plaintiffs. 

Summit County Probate Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer oversaw a hearing about the settlement in February. BASF, the largest chemical producer in the world, agreed to the settlement over two years ago on behalf of its subsidiary Engelhard. 

Engelhard was the major talc supplier for rubber companies from the 1950s until the 1980s. It owned Eastern Magnesia Talc, known as Emtal, which mined industrial talc in Vermont. 

The company said for decades that its talc did not contain asbestos. Talc lawsuits revealed the company knew about the asbestos contamination for many years. 

Rubber Workers Sickened by Asbestos-Contaminated Talc 

Known as the “Rubber Capital of the World,” Akron is home to many rubber companies, including Firestone and Goodyear. Rubber companies used talc to prevent rubber products from sticking together or to machinery.

Rubber workers who sued Emtal between 1984 and 2011 over developing asbestos-related diseases qualified for settlement money. About 85% of the rubber workers who sued have died, which means their heirs now qualify for the payments.

Also involved in the 2020 class-action settlement was Engelhard’s law firm, Cahill Gordon & Reindel. Plaintiffs accused Engelhard and Cahill of fraudulent concealment, fraud and civil conspiracy for hiding tests showing asbestos in the company’s talc. 

The class-action lawsuit claimed that Engelhard and Cahill “conspired to prevent thousands of asbestos-injury victims from obtaining fair tort recoveries for their injuries.”

Heirs Eligible for Settlement Payments

Settlement payments are based on the severity of the disease the rubber workers developed. The payments range from $4,000 to $300,000. Workers who developed mesothelioma will receive larger payments.

Marsh said these are the highest awards she has seen in her eight years as a probate judge. About 3,800 Akron rubber workers and their heirs may be eligible for payments. An estimated 90% of the payments will go to children and grandchildren. 

Attorneys have hired a search company to help find heirs. They have been unable to locate heirs for about 500 rubber workers who died of asbestos-related diseases.

Local attorneys will keep the settlement money in a trust while they continue to discover heirs. Summit County Probate Court has a list of the rubber workers who are due payments. Heirs may search the list for a relative or family member included in the settlement.

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