Porter-Hayden was the result of a merger between H.W. Porter Company, Reid Hayden, and H.M. ROYAL CO., INC. The company entered bankruptcy proceedings and had their case heard by the United States District Court and United States Bankruptcy Court based in Maryland. A reorganization plan for the company was approved by both courts, primarily to allow Porter-Hayden to stay in business after many thousands of personal injury claims had been filed against them.
The impetus for these claims came from a naturally occurring material that Porter-Hayden used in many of their industrial products: asbestos. It was a major component in roofing, construction, and insulation materials for many years, including those manufactured by Porter-Hayden Co. Asbestos was highly prized for its ability to withstand excessive temperatures. The asbestos mineral is made up of microscopic fibers, and when it is broken apart the fibers or dust particles are released into the air where they can float freely, attach to surfaces, or be inhaled. Any person who gets around these microscopic bits of asbestos is likely to inhale without knowing an exposure occurred. As the asbestos settles into the respiratory system, it will lodge itself in the inner body tissue and remain in place for years. While trapped internally, it can seriously damage the health of its host, and lead to diseases such as the rare cancer mesothelioma, which has a short life expectancy. The reason for this is twofold: 1) there is no known cure for the disease and 2) the disease has a long latency period so it is usually diagnosed in the later stages making the chances for going into remission with treatment low. Asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma but those with a smoking history that were also subjected to asbestos have an increased risk of developing the cancer. Mesothelioma treatment by stage can be different, but the prognosis is generally the same. View our mesothelioma treatment guide for more detailed information or our mesothelioma resources and support page.
There were nearly 58,000 unsettled claims against Porter-Hayden when the bankruptcy process began. When it was finalized, the company would be exempt from future claims, but in order for this to work they were made to establish the Porter Hayden Bodily Injury Trust in 2007. This is a group with a large fund supplied by the company. Their job is to review every case and determine the validity of each one. Claims that are considered to be valid are paid out in set amounts that are determined to be fair based on the type on the severity of each case.
It can take years for signs of asbestos related diseases to be noticeable, and anyone who worked around products that contained this hazardous material is urged to notify their doctor. Those who find they have developed illnesses following exposure may contact the trustees for the Porter Hayden Bodily Injury Trust to find out how to submit a claim, which can currently be accomplished online.