Kentile Floors Inc.
The Kentile floor company was founded by Arthur Kennedy in 1898. Like many other flooring manufacturers, Kentile flooring products included asbestos to increase durability and keep manufacturing costs low.
Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, comes in many grades from fibers of a length long enough to weave into textile products, to powder used as filler in asphalt products such as shingles, asphalt and flooring. Asbestos fibers provided strength while the low-grade powder made an inexpensive filler. With asbestos mines in Vermont and Quebec, Kentile, located in Brooklyn, NY, was able to purchase rail cars full of the material at relatively low cost. For much of Kentile’s history, their flooring products contained as much as 25% asbestos.
Asbestos, if encapsulated in flooring is not dangerous. The danger comes when the flooring materials are disturbed. When tiles are cut to install them or chiseled off during removal the tiny asbestos fragments are released into the air and inadvertently inhaled or swallowed. This put floor tile workers at great risk. Asbestos fibers once lodged in the lungs eventually become pleural plaques as lung tissue surrounds the particles.
Kentile moved into the Canadian marketplace in the early nineteen-forties. They had stiff competition in that Armstrong, Flintkote and Congoleum were already well-known brands and therefore had to undercut their prices to gain a foothold.
Kentile flooring products were sold by the T. Eaton company in Canada. As well as being offered in their department stores, Eaton’s offered Kentile products, with free shipping, through their mail order catalogues from 1944 until 1976. Many Kentile floor tiles were distributed the do it yourself market in this fashion. A single day of exposure to friable asbestos can cause mesothelioma. Do it yourself projects put women and children at risk when they were present while the work was being carried out.
Kentile also manufactured a wainscoting product called KENBASE, and a baseboard called KENCOVE. Kentile listed asbestos as an ingredient in the material composition in their trademark filings in Canada in the 1950s. Cutting these products to install them, usually with a circular saw, was so hazardous that the products should have included a warning. The lack of warnings was the basis for Kentile to be found negligent for asbestos injury claims.
Kentile manufactured flooring products at its original Brooklyn, NY facility as well as in Chicago, IL, South Plainfield, NJ and Torrance, CA. After removing asbestos from their flooring products in the mid-1980s, Kentile reported they could not maintain tile quality and durability. Two of their facilities closed as demand dropped.
On November 20, 1992, Kentile reported it was insolvent. The company actively sought a buyer but largely due to over twenty thousand asbestos claims, there were no purchasers. The assets of the company were liquidated but for two manufacturing facilities in New Jersey that were rented to other businesses. Attempts to establish an Asbestos trust failed as the company could not get enough votes to have the plan approved.
On emerging from bankruptcy in 1998 the company became Metex Manufacturing Company. As the personal injury claims were not channeled away from the company, Metex again faced many new asbestos liability claims.
The company again filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection on December 12, 2012. This time they were successful in their attempts to organize an asbestos trust to review and pay asbestos claims asserted against Metex for Kentile’s negligence. With funding of $193 Million the Kentile trust does not have sufficient assets to pay claims at their proper value, nevertheless victims do receive compensation without the need to litigate and within a relatively short time span.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma after having exposure to Kentile Floor products, please contact us for assistance with making a claim for compensation.