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Re: Johns-Manville Corporation, Dealer in death.
Chapman, Spira & Carson - Disscusion

From: Chapman Spira and Carson LLC
Date: 5/4/99
Time: 10:40:29 AM
Remote User:



The serpentine mineral group includes chrysotile, which is the best known, most abundant and the one we use the most. The structure of chrysotile consists of alternate strata of magnesia and silica, and in nature, are coiled into tubes called fibrils, that look like rolled newspapers. The amphibole mineral group contains the actinolite-tremolite series, anthophyllite, crocidolite and the cummingonite-grunerite series. The serpentine group contains elements such as aluminum, iron, magnesium and sodium. In various forms products made from these groups are used for heat resistance, roof coatings, siding, shingles, gaskets, and brake linings. We know them all as asbestos.

From the mine to construction, unless protection is utilized, the fibers that comprise these minerals can be inhaled; causing a disease called asbestosis. Families of people that mine or manufacture products associated these groups of minerals, and are not properly protected, are susceptible as well. It is customarily transmitted as dust on clothing and its transmission is similar in nature to what we are now familiar with, second hand smoke. Living near a plant that uses the fibers is also perilous, as the wind can easily transport the fibers and they readily become lodged in the unknowing victim’s lungs. Other diseases that these fibers produce are lung cancer and mesothelioma, which is a rare form of chest or abdomen cancer.

In spite of both the Egyptians and Romans utilized asbestos, its deadly nature was not disclosed until 1931, when Britain began regulating its exposure. Studies done by the English doctors, along with those of American insurance companies, unequivocally revealed its harmful effects. Within a short time certain insurance companies began excluding coverage for workers whose occupation was allied with asbestos related industries, but whenever the boat became severely rocked, workers claims against the producers were quietly paid. The amount of money being paid out remained negligible for many years and the producers considered this a paltry price to pay in an industry that was returning stratospheric profit margins.


Workers’ compensation was expanded to cover lung diseases and thus became a joint government and industry problem, but the total reimbursement continued to be minimal and was considered part of the cost of doing business. Early on, the manufacturers, long after producers became aware of asbestosis’ danger, but still being unwilling to forgo the extravagant profitability of the product line, developed certain ploys to mask its side effects. For example, It became de rigiour for managements in the industry to disparage those complaining of lung disease as shirkers and laggards, rather than address the medical issues that they had been aware of for several decades. Additionally, corporate liability was extremely limited by virtue of legal nuances that set extremely short time frames for the inflicted to bring action.


In 1964, a team at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York issued a report, irrefutable in nature, meticulously documented in character, loudly trumpeted in the press, laying out both chapter and verse as related to the medical horrors of asbestos. It was issued with such notoriety that after that date, no one could dare feign ignorance of the real facts. That, coupled with the discovery of studies commissioned by asbestos manufacturers analyzing the effect asbestos on laboratory animals, which were completed in the 30s and 40s, showing that in some cases all of the animals exposed to the material developed fatal diseases. This, as well it should, became the end of the asbestos era.

In spite of superb evidence was available regarding the adverse elements of asbestos, the United States did not begin to address the subject until 1972, long after the damage had been done. Estimates of the damage caused by the unfettered use of the substance for so many years are hard to come by on a global basis, but in the United States, it has been estimated that 21 million people come in contact with it on a regular basis, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that, as an insulator, its in about 700,000 building and 31,000 schools nationwide ( ). It is believed that 8,000 to 10,000 Americans will continue to die each year, for the foreseeable future, from this cause.

The sale of asbestos products remained an extremely profitable business throughout the world until the deadly effects of the product became known. Now that there is a global push to eliminate, or encapsulate asbestos, it has been estimated that this cost will be over a hundred times more expensive than the original installation. Both the original profits, and the ultimate losses, were born by a select group of companies in the United States, led by the biggest user of asbestos in the world, Johns-Manville Corporation.


Seeing that the game was over, 100 year old Manville twisted, turned and filed bankruptcy, having been overrun with 17,000 lawsuits. Remarkably, a company that had $2.2 billion in sales and had made $60 million the previous year, performed this act. One of the most devastating issues facing Manville was their own employees pension fund was the largest shareholder of the company, thus the bankruptcy, in one fell swoop, eliminated whatever savings the company’s employees had in the fund. Not a very good start.

The next problem, or benefit, depending on which side of the fence you are sitting, was the staying of all lawsuits or claims against Manville by people injured from asbestos. Lastly, the bankruptcy proceeding caused massive layoffs of the employees, pending a reorganization. The litigants were placed in limbo and new cases were estopped, the employee’s pensions were wiped out, and their jobs decimated, in a majestic swipe of the legal pen.

The most unusual aspect of the bankruptcy, was Manville had substantially more assets than liabilities at the time of the filing. As the years progressed, Manville’s stash increased, having avoided the payment of dividends on their stock, all bills due and owing, before the filling of the bankruptcy. Loans that had come due and judgements that were owed interest on their money, along with profitability from non-asbestos subsidiaries, continued to flow into the till. Senior corporate officers continued to be paid handsomely, directors fees continued, lawyers were cleaning up and not one cent was going to the people that had been maimed by Manville’s cover-up.


A personal-injury trust was set up to deal with the afflicted and their litigation. A fund of money was left in the trust to be distributed among the legitimate claimants. To date, 94,600 people have collected approximately $10,000 each, after payment of legal fees. Considering the life that awaits these recipients, it is hardly a princely sum.

As for management, they had another trick up their sleeve; when they formed the trust, they also formed another company to go about doing business as usual. The name has been changed to Schuller, so that no one will know the nefarious background of the principals and guess what! They are now in the non-asbestos building materials business, which is doing quite well, thank you.

Hard working people who diligently performed their duties working for Manville and companies like it, were lied to and mislead. , when the day of reckoning came, a small amount was set aside to cover pain and suffering, and management went on to bigger and better things. Claimants were expected to live out their lives in pain and suffering for an unconscionable act, not just by Manville, but by an entire industry of asbestos producers who put the almighty dollar in front of the lives of their employees. Managements of all these companies were aware that health risks existed for their employees, and yet moved not a finger to prevent it or aid them. Tribunals should be set up to try those who take others’ lives, either through sins of omission, or those of commission. These people are no more conscionable than the dictator dealing in genocide, and management of these companies has shown about as much remorse for what they have done, as did Hitler’s henchmen at Nuremberg.

Last changed: March 17, 2000