BorgWarner Incorporated is an automotive parts manufacturing company based out of Auburn Hills, Michigan. Since its inception, the company has been linked with using asbestos in a number of its products, specifically clutches and brake pads. After thousands upon thousands of people suffered due to the company’s negligence, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related lawsuits followed.
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BorgWarner Incorporated History
BorgWarner Incorporated was established in 1928 after a merger between four different companies: Mechanics Universal Joint, Borg & Beck, Marvel-Schebler, and Warner Gear. The company started out producing an automobile transmission part, a turbocharger, and automatic and manual transmissions. Later on, BorgWarner created and patented their own clutch technology, which helped automobile gears change more smoothly.
Throughout the next several decades and into the late 1970s, BorgWarner continued to expand. Numerous subsidiaries branched off from BorgWarner, creating a variety of different products. BorgWarner continues to manufacture automotive parts, specially drivetrain and engine components. Its headquarters is in Auburn Hills, Michigan, but there are locations in 19 other countries across the world.
Currently, BorgWarner doesn’t use asbestos in any of its products. However, prior to the late 1970s, before the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) strict guidelines on asbestos use, the company heavily relied on the toxic mineral for its fire and heat-resistant properties. Consequently, as workers and consumers started to fall ill after being exposed to asbestos via BorgWarner products, a string of asbestos-related lawsuits followed.
BorgWarner Incorporated Lawsuits
One of more well-known lawsuits against BorgWarner began in the early 2000s when a former General Motors (GM) employees passed away from asbestos-related complications at the age of 50. According to court documents, Mark Buttitta, died from malignant mesothelioma in Dec. 2002, only a few days before the holidays.
Buttitta was survived by a wife and three children. His wife, acting on his behalf, pursued damages against BorgWarner and a variety of other companies that exposed her husband to asbestos. Yet, it was not Buttitta’s own work around asbestos that caused the most damage. While Buttitta was a sales executive at GM during his adult years, his father worked as a parts picker while Buttitta was a child, where he handled asbestos-riddled brakes and clutches on a daily basis. His father would then come home in work clothes that had asbestos fibers embedded in them.
As a teenager, Buttitta worked part-time in the GM warehouse, where he was in constant contact with asbestos. His brother also worked at the warehouse, contributing even more asbestos to the family home. GM used a variety of automotive parts that were distributed by BorgWarner.
In Feb. 2008, a Hackensack, New Jersey jury returned a verdict in favor of Buttitta. His family was awarded $30.8 million, one of the highest mesothelioma verdicts ever in the state of New Jersey.
A few years prior to the verdict, Buttitta’s wife established the Mark Buttitta Memorial Foundation for Research, in order to bring awareness to the various ways that people can be exposed to asbestos. Although the primary way of exposure is via work-related activities, many people who live with parents who worked around asbestos have developed life-threatening illnesses through second-hand exposure.
“While most mesothelioma victims are employed in the construction or automotive manufacturing industries, Mark did not fit this typical profile,” the foundation said. “Mark Buttitta’s sad case shows convincingly how blue-collar workers from the automotive, construction and other asbestos-using industries are not the only potential victims of mesothelioma. “In Bloomfield, Englewood, and all across New Jersey, men and women who wouldn’t know a brake shoe from a horseshoe can be struck down by this horrible disease decades later from simply living with someone who dealt with asbestos in his daily occupation. In Mark Buttitta’s case we were able to get justice for him and his young family.”
By 2006, BorgWarner had already faced over 60,000 asbestos-related claims. Towards the end of 2006, around 45,000 cases remained pending. Over $16 million had already been paid by the company in litigation, with an estimated $40 million in liability awaiting. Yet, unlike many other companies faced with numerous lawsuits, BorgWarner did not file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Asbestos in Automotive Parts Today
Unfortunately, although the EPA placed strict regulations on asbestos use, it’s still not completely banned. Therefore, some automotive parts may still contain the toxic mineral. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) recommends that all automotive mechanics and technicians should always wet asbestos and work in pressurized enclosures. Although there is no safe amount of asbestos exposure, the aforementioned recommendations can help reduce the risk of exposure.
Resources for Asbestos Victims and Loved Ones
Remember to fill out our from to get your free Financial Compensation Packet, with information on asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers in your area. For additional assistance, contact us at 800-793-4540.