H.K. Porter Company, Inc.

H.K. Porter Company, Inc., was founded in 1866 by Henry Kirke Porter in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Until 1950, H.K. Porter was the nation's largest producer of industrial locomotives, having built approximately 8,000 of them. The locomotives built by Porter were smaller than their competitors and could be operated by a single engineer. They were most often powered by steam. In addition, H.K. Porter cornered the market on locomotives propelled by compressed air, which were used in coal mines.

The company grew rapidly following the First World War, when there was a construction boom across the United States. The company was unable to weather the Great Depression, however, and entered bankruptcy in 1939. The company was bought by investors and during the Second World War was able to profit from the demand needed to fight the war. Nevertheless, following the war the popularity of locomotives diminished. The increasing availability for air travel and the automobile led to declining demand for locomotives. In 1950 the company halted locomotive production.

Unfortunately, H.K. Porter used asbestos in its locomotives for decades. The toxic material was used in large measure to insulate the engines, which operated at extremely high temperatures. The presence of asbestos, however, was a death sentence for the men and women who were employed for H.K. Porter and in the rail industry. Moreover, because asbestos is an airborne hazard, anyone working at a job site was at risk. If asbestos particles are inhaled they lodge themselves in the lining of the lungs.

As early as the 1920s, physicians recognized that exposure to asbestos caused severe sickness when asbestosis was identified by British medical journals. At the same time, insurance companies in the United States and Canada stopped selling life insurance to asbestos workers. Moreover, safer substitutes for most asbestos uses were known as early as the 1930s. Nevertheless, H.K. Porter chose to protect its substantial profit margins rather than discontinue use of the mineral.

Additionally, the asbestos fibers remain in a person's lungs for years and symptoms may not develop for decades. Accordingly, H.K. Porter's victims might live for decades without knowing of the deadly injury they sustained. Even after H.K. Porter ended locomotive production in 1950, the company continued to manufacture and sell asbestos products. Some of these included conveyor belts, elevator belts, oil field products and ducting. H.K. Porter asbestos products ended up in shipyards and factories across the country.

Because of its use of asbestos, H.K. Porter filed for bankruptcy protection. In 1998, as part of its reorganization plan, the company established the H.K. Porter Asbestos Trust to compensate the victims of its asbestos use. If you or a loved one has been injured by H.K. Porter, it is important that you contact Gori Julian & Associates, P.C., immediately for more information on your rights.

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