Hess to Pay Up to $187 Million to Settle Asbestos Injury Claims

Legislation & Litigation

The global energy company Hess Corporation will pay up to $187 million to settle asbestos injury claims made in connection to an oil refinery that had been operating in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The claims cover those who worked at the refinery, their family and residents in the area who may have been exposed to asbestos and developed asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma

According to a notice of settlement filed in Texas bankruptcy court, Hess and a non-operating subsidiary of Hess known as Honx, Inc., will pay $105 million. The funds will create an asbestos trust to cover more than 900 exposure-related injury claims.

The companies will also pay another $45 million to cover any future claims. Additional future payments will be capped at $37 million over the next 25 years. About $11.5 million of the $37 million will be put aside specifically for mesothelioma claims

Bankruptcy and Lawsuits

Formerly known as Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corp., Honx, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2022. As part of the bankruptcy agreement Honx would provide $11 million for case expenses and another $10 million to create an asbestos settlement fund. The agreement to create a fund for claimants also removed any potential for legal action to be filed against either company.

Around the time of the company’s bankruptcy filing, Honx said it received 911 claims of alleged asbestos exposure at the Limetree Bay oil refinery located on the island of St. Croix between 1965 and 1998. Since 1987, Honx and Hess have been sued more than 1,500 times over asbestos claims. 

Around 1,100 of the claims have been settled. A committee of unsecured creditors was denied in November 2022 after requesting bellwether trials take place in the Virgin Islands.

The Dangers of Asbestos 

Asbestos fibers can be inhaled or ingested and become trapped inside of the body. Decades later, those trapped asbestos fibers can cause inflammation, scarring and cancer. Asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma. It can also cause a progressive lung disease called asbestosis.

The mineral that was used for decades in various ways for its resistance to heat and its insulation qualities. Asbestos has been found in thousands of consumer, industrial and commercial products. As awareness about the dangers of asbestos rose, lawsuit filings increased and the public pushed for protections, most U.S. companies stopped using asbestos in the 1980s and 1990s. 

During the height of asbestos use, oil refinery workers were at a high risk of occupational asbestos exposure. Asbestos was often used to insulate against the high temperatures common at oil refineries. Many workers even wore safety gear made from asbestos to protect against heat. Asbestos was also common in building materials, machinery and other equipment used at oil refineries.

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