These products were not used in family homes but were instead used for commercial construction, which led insulation workers and commercial construction contractors to become ill with asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer.
By the middle of the 1970s, people began to sue Shook and Fletcher because they were never warned about the harmful properties of the substances they were working with.
Harmful Products and Health Consequences
The federal government knew about the dangers of working with asbestosis-inducing insulation and other materials by 1970. The government began to enforce safety guidelines to try to mitigate the amount of damage that would be done to workers in the name of companies making money by using asbestos-laden products. However, by this time, people had been working with the deadly insulation for so long that the health of those workers was already deteriorating, and many people had already died.
Many companies like Shook and Fletcher failed to warn workers and people who utilized their insulation of the health risks, even after those risks were known to the companies. This negligence to warn and follow safety guidelines left Shook and other companies vulnerable.
Lawsuits Against Shook and Fletcher
Working with asbestos in construction and other types of insulation work can involve inhaling a massive amount of carcinogenic fibers over the course of a career. Many of the former workers who brought legal complaints against Shook and Fletcher had been employed with many different companies or worked with many different types of asbestos-laden insulation and other materials used in commercial construction work.
In these cases, plaintiffs often had to sue a myriad of manufacturers whose products led to their mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease. When this happens, the courts determine a percentage of responsibility for each defendant based on various factors such as how long the plaintiff spent working around a particular product.
In the majority of instances, companies including Shook will be held responsible for paying a percentage of the verdict. In legal disputes with manufacturers for mesothelioma, these verdicts can amount to millions of dollars.
Bankruptcy and an Asbestos Trust
With lawsuits weighing Shook and Fletcher down financially, they opted to file bankruptcy in 2002. As with the multitude of other asbestosis defendants that used bankruptcy to minimize their financial losses due to asbestosis claims, Shook established Shook & Fletcher Asbestos Settlement Trust to pay off future claims for personal injuries and wrongful deaths from their company’s toxic products.
While Shook’s products were not used in homes and therefore posed little risk to the average consumer, they were used in many industrial construction settings. People who worked in commercial demolition, construction, and contracting have continued to encounter the toxic insulation long after it was taken off the market.