Based out of Geneva, Switzerland, Foster Wheeler in an international company that supplies products for engineering, power, and power management companies. According to its official website, Foster Wheeler operates under two different business groups: The Global Power Group and The Global Engineering and Construction (E&C) Group. Although the company is still in operations today, its past use of asbestos resulted in thousands of mesothelioma lawsuits and other asbestos-related claims.
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Foster Wheeler History
Foster Wheeler was established in 1927, but the company dates back to 1884 when the Foster family founded a company known as the Water Works Supply Company, based out of the United States. Shortly after, the name was changed to Power Specialty Company. It wasn’t until the Power Specialty Company merged with Wheeler Condenser & Engineering Company that it became Foster Wheeler. The merge, however, tied Foster Wheeler directly to asbestos as the companies it merged with had a long history of using the deadly mineral in numerous products.
For example, Wheeler Condenser & Engineering Company, which supplied heat exchangers, pumps, and and steam condensers to the military, used asbestos in most of its products. When Foster Wheeler was under the name Power Specialty Company, it manufactured asbestos-containing boiler components and heaters to the military during World War I. Once the companies merged, the relationship with military continued, and Foster Wheeler began providing heaters, cooling equipment, and steam generators. The company expanded greatly afterwards, opening offices in several other countries.
Over the next several decades, Foster Wheeler continued to grow, and even tried its hand in the oil industry. However, when the oil boom declined, the company created Foster Wheeler Environmental Services, Inc. and Foster Wheeler Power Systems, Inc. The company then expanded into Asia and Europe, where it took on boiler contracts for China. Soon after, Foster Wheeler opened a plant in the Philippines.
Despite its growth and success, Foster Wheeler placed thousands of people at risk of life-threatening diseases by using asbestos in its products. Consequently, the company started facing a myriad of asbestos-related lawsuits.
Foster Wheeler Lawsuits
Although Foster Wheeler faced thousands of asbestos-related lawsuits, the following case is one of the more prominent claims, and an example of what Foster Wheeler faced as employees and contractors came forward after developing illnesses such as malignant mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer.
In 2002, Alfred Todak, 60, a former Navy electrician, won of the largest verdicts ever in a California asbestos case after proving the company’s negligence caused his battle with pleural mesothelioma.
According to court documents, during a five-week trial, Todak’s mesothelioma attorney showed that Todak’s occupational exposure to asbestos occurred while he worked at Seattle’s Bethlehem Steel Mill and at the Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Company, also in Seattle. His work around Foster Wheeler’s boilers, in particular, is what helped contribute to Tudok developing mesothelioma. From 1965 until 1972, Tudoks employment with both companies constantly exposed him to asbestos fibers.
Under California’s consumer safety laws, a San Francisco county jury found Foster Wheeler’s type–D marine boilers as defective, based upon the fact that company failed to warn others of the dangers associated with the product. In addition, the jury also found Foster Wheeler at fault for negligent supply, manufacture, and design of its boilers.
Todak, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, successfully won his lawsuit against Foster Wheeler, as well as numerous other manufacturers. His verdict amount included $22.7 million in damages. His wife, Stephanie Todak, won $11 million for loss of consortium. Foster Wheeler was found liable for 30% of the total verdict, equaling $10 million, while other companies were responsible for the remaining damages.
“We are gratified to have the jury acknowledge the substantial effect of this terrible disease on a very deserving man and wife, and that Foster Wheeler failed to demonstrate a colorable government contractor affirmative defense,” said Todak’s attorney. “Juries have a keen ability to sort out right from wrong.”
Occupations Affected by Foster Wheeler
Since Foster Wheeler did much of its supplying to the armed forces, military personnel have been affected the most, and therefore most of the asbestos-related claims come from those who served in the military and/or worked on military ships and tanks. Common occupations in the military, including contractor occupations, that were affected by Foster Wheeler, include
- Pipe fitters
- Boiler makers
- Shipyard workers
- Electrical plant helpers
Foster Wheeler’s Asbestos-containing Products
Not all of Foster Wheeler’s products contained asbestos, but the ones that did caused an influx of life-threatening illnesses. The following products of Foster Wheeler were confirmed to contain asbestos:
- Steam generators
- Refractory block insulation
Foster Wheeler Today
Foster Wheeler remains in business today, although in 2001, it almost faced bankruptcy due to the overwhelming amount of lawsuits it faced. However, the company slowly recovered and in 2009, built a biomass-only power plant in Poland, marking it the world’s largest power plant of its kind. The company also relocated its headquarters from the United States to Geneva, Switzerland, resulting in most of the company sales coming from overseas business.
Additional Resources and Information for Asbestos Victims
Remember, if you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may qualify for significant compensation. Remember to fill out our from to get your free Financial Compensation Packet, with information on asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers in your area.