Written by attorney Matthew A. Dolman

Bondex Asbestos Damages Reach $575 Million

Two weeks ago a U.S. bankruptcy judge decided the case of Bondex International Inc., and chose to side with lawyers representing asbestos claimants. The judge rejected the method the company used to determine they owe only $575 million to the victims of asbestos exposure caused by their products. Instead, the judge believes the damage amount is closer to $1.17 billion.

Bondex International, initially owned by Reardon, was purchased by Republic Powdered Metals (RPM) in 1966. The company is widely known in the U.S. for manufacturing patching and repair products, but also makes a variety of contracting and home remodeling materials including those used for surface preparation, wallpapering, texturing, and concrete repair.

Up until 1981, most of Bondex’s home repair materials contained asbestos, a mineral comprised of long crystalline fibers, which was a common component in thousands of products through much of the 20th century. The very first commercial asbestos mine was created in Canada, in 1874, and in no time the mineral had paved its way within the emergent manufacturing world of the Industrial Revolution. Asbestos was durable, long-lasting, an excellent insulator and even aided in ending the spread of fires – all assets that made the mineral a top choice for manufacturers making everything from floor tiles to window blinds to kitchen mitts.

Decades passed before the public became educated about the severe health risks associated with exposure to asbestos. Almost all uses of asbestos were prohibited by the federal government in the late 1970’s– but by that time, thousands of workers had already been exposed to the mineral. These workers were stunned to learn that the asbestos particles they had been breathing in for years, some even decades, were permanently damaging their lungs. Others discovered they were suffering from mesothelioma, a terminal form of lung cancer for which asbestos is the only known cause.

Bondex used asbestos in a variety of products marketed under different brand names. The company banned the mineral in most products by 1977, although a few products were manufactured with asbestos up until 1981.

Some brand name products that contained asbestos include:

•Bondex Ready-Mixed Joint Cement

•Bondex All-Purpose Joint Compound

•Bondex All-Purpose Joint Cement

•Bontone Fibred Masonry Coating

Unfortunately Bondex attempted to grossly underestimate their responsibility to current and future mesothelioma cancer victims. “We decline to accept debtors’ novel approach in this case," expressed Judge Judith K. Fitzgerald, in her published opinion. The decision against Bondex was made to help determine how much the company, and its partners, must set aside for the company’s reorganization.

Bondex, along with another subsidiary, reported in 2009 revenues of $329 million, roughly 10% of RPM’s total income. However, in 2010, Bondex filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after being confronted with an excessive number of asbestos-related claims. RPM’s chief executive,Frank Sullivan, alleged that his company had paid out over $600 million in claims for Bondex over the past eight years. RPM reportedly set aside an additional $400 million in reserves to cover future lawsuits.The manufacturing company had promised to set up a trust that would cover current and future lawsuits filed against them. The trust would provide compensation to victims for medical care and other costs associated with mesothelioma cancer.

Because Bondex has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, current claims will not be paid out until a reorganization plan is approved and implemented. If you believe you, or a family member, may have been exposed to asbestos through use of Bondex products, contact your physician right away. Asbestos-related conditions such as mesothelioma can take decades to develop and symptoms are similar to common illnesses. Now that the judgment had been rendered against Bondex, a reorganization plan will be executed, and victims will hopefully be receiving their settlements sooner than later.

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