The Harbison-Walker Refractories Company, now know as ANH Refractories, is one of the world’s largest and suppliers of refractory materials. In the past, the company heavily relied on asbestos in many of its products. Subsequently, Harbison-Walker faced mounting asbestos-related claims.
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Established in 1865, the Star Fire Brick Company manufactured and distributed industrial products meant to withstand high temperatures.
The company changed its name to Harbison-Walker 10 years later but continued to manufacture products such as fireproof bricks, refractory cement, and castables.
During the 1960s, Harbison-Walker made a merger with a similar company, Dresser Industries, Inc., which was a subsidiary of the popular corporation, Halliburton.
Although the decision to merge seemed to be a power move for the company, it came with strings attached: numerous asbestos-related claims. Legal costs ended up costing the company much more than anticipated.
In 1999, RHIAG, the manufacturer of refractory products, bought Harrison-Walker. However, since they were merged with Harrison-Walker, both Halliburton and Dresser were still left responsible for the mounting asbestos-related claims and lawsuits stemming from the company’s products.
Harbison-Walker Lawsuits and Bankruptcy
More than 200,000 pending claims awaited Harbison-Walker during the early 2000s. Over half of these claims were based on a 1992 indemnification agreement with its merger with Dresser.
Harbison-Walker filed for bankruptcy in 2002, but prior to filing, it established the DII Industries, LLC Asbestos PI Trust.
Most companies file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection prior to setting up an asbestos trust fund, but Harbison-Walker made a deal with its insurance underwriters to settle current asbestos claims for 100 pennies on the dollar.
The asbestos trust was funded with $4 billion, with over $570 million of the amount coming from Harbison-Walker’s insurance underwriters, London Underwriters. Insurance reserves and company stocks funded the remaining amount.
5 Victims Win $40 Million Against Harbison-Walker
Harbison-Walker faced a lawsuit in 2001, just one year before filing for bankruptcy, in which they lost $40 million to five victims of asbestos-related diseases.
Along with Harbison-Walker, several other companies were found guilty of contributing to the victims’ diseases, including Armstrong Contracting and Supply Company, and A.P. Green Industries.
The only way Harbison-Walker could financially survive the lawsuit was to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It also reorganized and set up another asbestos trust fund in order to handle any future claims.
Occupations Affected by Harbison-Walker
People who worked in the construction industry were affected the most by Harbison-Walker.
The company mixed asbestos into cement, ropes, brick, and other construction materials. In addition, those who manufactured the company’s products were at risk each time they went to work.
Brand Names of Asbestos-Containing Materials
Harbison-Walker used several brand names for its asbestos-containing materials, including the following:
- Asbestos Rope
- Chromepak G
- H-W Lightweight Castable #10
- Metalkase Firebrick
- Micracrete Refractory Cement
The BP Oil Spill
Halliburton, the parent company of Harbison-Walker, had a big part in the Deepwater Horizon oil rig fire, which exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and spilling massive amounts of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Halliburton played a part bc the company provided cementing services on the oil rig. As a result, in Sept. 2011, a federal report indicated that Halliburton was at least partially responsible for the oil spill.
Consequently, Halliburton was made to pay some of the costs of the $40 billion cleanup efforts.
“BP is required to indemnify Halliburton for third-party compensatory claims that arise from pollution or contamination that did not originate from the property or equipment of Halliburton located above the surface of the land or water, even if Halliburton’s gross negligence caused the pollution.”Judge Barbier of the United States District Court in New Orleans.
Harbison-Walker is still in business today and operates under the name HarbisonWalker International. The company no longer uses asbestos in any of its products.
Additional Resources and Legal Help for Asbestos Victims
If you’ve been injured by asbestos, keep in mind that there is a good chance that you’ll qualify for considerable compensation. Remember to fill out our form to get your free Financial Compensation Packet, with information on asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers in your area. If you have questions or need additional assistance, contact us at 800-793-4540.
Page Reviewed and Edited by Mesothelioma Attorney Paul Danziger
Paul Danziger grew up in Houston, Texas and earned a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. For over 25 years years he has focused on representing mesothelioma cancer victims and others hurt by asbestos exposure. Paul and his law firm have represented thousands of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer, recovering significant compensation for injured clients. Every client is extremely important to Paul and he will take every call from clients who want to speak with him. Paul and his law firm handle mesothelioma cases throughout the United States.