Louis Company Files for Bankruptcy from Asbestos Lawsuits

The Christy Refractories Company LLC has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy citing numerous asbestos lawsuits filed against it. The St. Louis-based manufacturer of heat-resistant products sells refractories, insulation products, and heating panels to customers in a variety of industries.
Under its previous name Christy Refractories the company sold asbestos-containing insulation products, which have been the subject of numerous asbestos lawsuit. Asbestos lawsuits were first filed against the company in the 1980s, but according to company filings, the cases became more frequent starting around the year 2000. An estimated 1,000 lawsuits are pending, and Christy’s current monthly settlements for asbestos-related cases are over $1 million. According to Christy Refractories’ attorney, the majority of asbestos claims filed are either settled or dismissed with the company holding no liability. The lawsuits have been filed by people who were exposed to the company’s asbestos-containing products in steel mills and schools, as well as other commercial and industrial locations. Exposure to asbestos can lead to debilitating and life-threatening diseases such as asbestos, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

According to documents filed with the St. Louis bankruptcy court, $18 million is what’s left of the company’s available insurance pool, which was originally $45 million. To continue to cover the costs of future lawsuit settlements, a trust fund will be established. A minimum of $18 million will be put into the fund, and any additional money to be added will be determined by the bankruptcy courts. The decision to file for bankruptcy, however, causes some concern, according to an attorney for several persons who have filed suit against the company for asbestos exposure. “We have no idea what’s going to happen,” said attorney Andrew O’Brien. The company is expected to remain open during its reorganization. It had 23 employees as of late October. Christy Refractories Co. LLC, which was originated in 1922 as Christy Fire Brick Company, is a subsidiary of O’Brien Industrial Holdings LLC (no relationship to attorney Andrew O’Brien mentioned earlier), which acquired the company in 1996. The parent company and its other subsidiaries are not in bankruptcy. The reorganization is expected to be complete by late 2009, says a company spokesman.