The Nicolet Company, also known as Keasbey & Mattison Company, was a manufacturing company that produced an abundance of asbestos-containing products. Though the company saw huge financial success for many years, its long association with asbestos use led to thousands of mesothelioma lawsuits and other asbestos-related claims. Eventually the company filed for bankruptcy and established a trust fund to help pay off pending and future asbestos-related cases.
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The Nicolet Company History
The Nicolet Company started in 1881 after Dr. Richard V. Mattison and Henry G. Keasbey moved their small pharmaceutical company to Ambler, Pennsylvania. Originally known as Keasbey & Mattison, in the beginning the company focused on manufacturing and marketing patent medications, which included their popular invention, Bromo Caffeine. However, once the company learned of asbestos via its mixture in the milk of magnesia medication, it shifted its focus to creating asbestos-related products.
Shortly after, Keasbey & Mattison became a leading company and employer in the small town of Ambler. According to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, although the company greatly helped people find employment and increased the town’s economy, Keasbey & Mattison’s asbestos products resulted in Ambler becoming known as “asbestos capital of the world.”
During World War I, Keasbey & Mattison provided an array of asbestos-related products to the military. The company went through an ownership change around the same, and became known as The Nicolet Company.
Under its new name, the company continued to produce asbestos products for numerous years. By then, thousands of people had already developed life-threatening diseases from asbestos exposure. Asbestos-related lawsuit began flooding in against The Nicolet Company, resulting in the company filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The Nicolet Company Lawsuits
Many instances of asbestos victims caused by the The Nicolet Company involved not only employees and contractors, but also numerous people who developed second-hand exposure.
According to Riverfront Times News (RTN), Ambler resident Mary Samsel grew up on Kilgore Drive, a short distance from The Nicolet Company’s asbestos-cement plant. Her father worked at the plant, and on numerous occasions, she would accompany him to work. Samsel later became a physician and never worked around asbestos nor asbestos-containing products, yet at the age of 47, she was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Although physicians initially thought Samsel’s disease was caused by smoking, a closer look at one of her right lungs revealed asbestos fibers in it. At the time of her exposure, a manufacturing company, CertainTeed, had taken over the plant. In turn, Samsel sued CertainTeed. A settlement of an undisclosed amount was reached.
However, The Nicolet Company was found responsible for a myriad of other asbestos-related lawsuits. In 1987, facing over 61,000 lawsuits, the company filed for bankruptcy. Many people felt that the company’s decision to file bankruptcy was not fair, including George Henry, whose 74-year-old father developed asbestosis after working at The Nicolet Company’s plant.
“They’re more or less saying, ‘If you got it, there’s nothing we can do. . . . The hell with you.’ That’s bull.”
However, Henry’s statement came before the establishment of an asbestos trust fund to compensate victims, which was later to come.
The Nicolet Company Asbestos Trust Fund
The Nicolet Company was eventually acquired by Armstrong World Industries. When Armstrong took over the company, it also took over all of its asbestos-related cases, which are being handled by the Armstrong World Industries Asbestos Trust. The fund, created in 2006, started with a funding of over $2 billion. Over $200 million has already been paid out.
Occupations Affected by The Nicolet Company
The Nicolet Company’s asbestos products were distributed to a surplus of different industries, affecting numerous different workers, including:
- Construction workers
- Insulation installers
- Roof workers and carpenters
- Automobile factory workers
- Home decorators
- Automobile mechanics
- Sheet metal workers
- Welders and welder’s helpers
- Yard workers and laborers
- Utility workers
Asbestos-containing Brands Manufactured by The Nicolet Company
The following are among the many types of asbestos products made by The Nicolet Company
- K&M Kolor-Mate Asbestos-Cement Structural Sheets
- K&M Hy-Temp Pipe Insulation
- K&M Featherweight and Hi-Temp 85 percent Magnesia Pipe and Block Insulation
- K&M Bestfelt Pipe Insulation
- K&M Hi-Temp Block and Pipe Insulation
- K&M Fine Corrugated and Special Fine Air Cell Pipe Insulation
- Century Asbestos Corrugated
- K&M Century Asbestos Shingles
- Range Boiler Jacket
- “Featherweight” Pipe Insulation
- Hy-Temp Block Insulation
- Kaytherm Pipe Insulation
- Kaytherm Block Insulation
- Asbestos Cement Air Duct
- Zebra Pipe Insulation
- Bestfelt Lamino Sponge Pipe Insulation
- Air Cell Sheets and Blocks
- Simplex “Super Shrunk” Pipe Insulation
- Special Fine Corrugated Air Cell Pipe Insulation
- Duplex Pipe Insulation
- Asbestos Cloth Jacket for K&M Pipe Covering
The Nicolet Company and Massive Asbestos Pile-ups
On the western edge of Ambler, Pennsylvania lies what’s known as the “white mountains.” For many years, The Nicolet Company dumped massive amount in the area, at the Wissahickon Creek site. In the 1970s, the Environtmental Protection Agency (EPA) took notice and ordered the company to stop dumping toxic wastes. Yet, the damage already done resulted in airborne asbestos fibers landing in peoples’ homes, on their cars, and even on playground equipment.
The EPA eventually fined The Nicolet Company $1.4 million, but because of the company’s bankruptcy, it was never paid. However, a large cleanup of the site began in 1985. The EPA covered up toxic wastes that had reached up to 30 feet.
Additional Help and Resources
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