They have provided equipment and services to a myriad of industries, including oil refinery, coal, and petroleum plants; metal and mining industries; healthcare and biotech industries, and the military, among others.
The company had a history of using asbestos-based boiler parts and gaskets before 1970. Such equipment was commonly used before the EPA banned the carcinogenic materials for causing mesothelioma and pulmonary cancer.
Foster Wheeler’s boilers and steam generators caused many illnesses and deaths among factory workers and military members who did not know the dangers of working with asbestosis-inducing fibers and dust.
Harmful Products and Health Consequences
Veterans of the Second World War frequently encountered these carcinogenic products in their line of duty while doing pipe fitting, boiler making, and shipyard work. Plant workers at the company and other industrial workers were likewise exposed to hazards that involved inhaling and ingesting asbestos fibers.
Many of these people and their surviving relatives later sued Foster Wheeler due to the devastating amount of medical bills involved in treating mesothelioma, as well as for the company’s negligence in failing to warn workers of the health hazards in using their equipment.
Because the military does not assume legal responsibility for veteran illnesses and deaths due to asbestosis and related diseases, veterans are left to sue manufacturers and distributors themselves.1
Lawsuits and Bankruptcy
Securities and Exchange Commission reports for 2004 state that Foster Wheeler lost a significant amount of money that year and in the previous years due to asbestos-related liability. As of December 2004, the company reported a shareholder deficit of around $525,000. Foster noted that the amount of current and future claims related to asbestos could be much higher than they originally estimated due to the increasing prevalence of asbestos-related disease.
Moreover, so many other asbestos makers had filed for bankruptcy, leaving Foster as one of the few solvent companies left to be sued for damages. Because of the international nature of the company, these claims came not only from people in the United States but also from the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
The report notes that Foster Wheeler paid out high settlements and verdicts to asbestosis plaintiffs at that time.2
Because mesothelioma can take an average of 20 to 40 years to develop and be diagnosed, Foster will likely continue to face litigation as they have not yet filed for bankruptcy protection. People who have become ill or will become ill in the future because of working with Foster’s carcinogenic equipment will continue to have grounds to sue.