Abex Corporation was established in 1928. It used asbestos-laden friction elements in its brake parts for decades, which ultimately led to the development of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases for many. Litigation against the company by those injured cost Abex millions of dollars. By 2001, Abex Corporation joined the ranks of companies that filed for bankruptcy to reduce the costs associated with asbestosis lawsuits.1
In an article titled “Establishing the Casual Link in Asbestos Litigation: An Alternative Approach,” published in the Brooklyn Law Review in 2002, researchers determined that many industry manufacturers like Abex had paid settlements of over $10 billion for their decisions to continue using asbestos-laden automotive parts. Even once these car parts are no longer being produced and sold, they can still be found in automobiles that were already manufactured. The article cites a lawsuit against Abex by a mechanic whose job was to replace old brake pads that were falling apart. Because these were asbestos-laden parts, working with the materials in such a manner exposed this mechanic and others to carcinogenic dust and fibers that ultimately lodge in the lungs to cause cancer, such as mesothelioma.2
Likewise, consumers who work on their own automobiles face a similar risk, although the risk is generally less due to a shorter duration of exposure. Nevertheless, there is no safe level of exposure, and even one exposure event can cause disease. This problem is similar for those who work in construction or on remodeling projects, whether as contractors or homeowners, because exposure to carcinogens occurs when asbestos-based products are removed or torn apart.
Bankruptcy and an Asbestos Trust
Mesothelioma can take decades to be diagnosed, and many people who worked with Abex’s products might not have known they were at risk of illness. Since most companies that exposed their employees and consumers to asbestos-laden materials were aware of the risks and liabilities by the early 1970s, they were negligent for not informing people of the dangers. In 2011, Abex created the Pneumo Abex Asbestos Claims Settlement Trust to cover future claims. Per the company’s Securities and Exchange Commission filing for that year, an asbestos claims settlement trust was continuing “to resolve asbestos-related claims asserted against it in the tort system.”3
The Future of Abex Corporation
Abex Corporation continues to be a risk to consumers and the environment despite no longer being in operation. According to the EPA, Abex’s location in Portsmouth, VA, was used from 1928 until 1978 as a foundry for bronze and brass, and the site also included an area for sand disposal. The EPA discovered that the company had contaminated the soil so severely that nearby homes and playgrounds were affected for a two-square-block radius. The EPA has listed Abex’s location as a national priority Superfund site, meaning the location was one of the most hazardous areas in the United States. Federally funded cleanup of the location began in the 1980s. People who lived nearby had their homes torn down, and some were temporarily relocated in 1997 due to the extensive cleanup required. The site is still listed as having soil contaminated with lead and a long list of other dangerous contaminants.4