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Johns-Manville’s asbestos cover-up?

   "It is now known that asbestos dust is one of the most dangerous dusts to which man is exposed."

               - The U.S. bureau of Mines in a letter to a major US asbestos company, circa 1930.


Between 1930 and 1949, Johns-Manville (once the largest manufacturer of asbestos in the United States) conducted studies on its employees to find out just how damaging asbestos was to their health. One internal, suppressed study in 1949, found that out of 780 asbestos workers, 534 had lung changes. In 1933, 29% of employees at the Johns-Manville plant had a condition involving severe scars in the lungs. This was later called asbestosis.

Today, one in 125 men who die over the age of fifty in a given year dies of asbestosis ( 10,000 Americans die every year from asbestos-related illnesses (

Johns-Manville was one of many asbestos companies that knew about the dangers of asbestos and kept the information secret. An internal memo at Exxon (another company that worked in asbestos) shows that they not only had knowledge of the hazards their workers were facing, but they knew they were also breaking the law in the process:

“Not only are we violating existing regulations concerning clothing by not providing such clothing and laundering it, but we are also failing to protect our employees and the families of our employees from asbestos exposure.”


          It’s a strange pain, it’s the sort of pain that you don’t think it’s going to stop. You’re taking the medicine – the tablets – to kill the pain, and it’s still going. You get a little bit frightened because you think that pain’s just going to get worse and worse – almost like medieval torture…

                - Ian Hall, a man suffering from mesothelioma.

Asbestos companies were able to continue concealing information. It takes anywhere from ten to fifty years for asbestos to cause these illnesses. If your father or grandparents wanted to file a lawsuit against the company, he would need to prove that his illness was caused by the asbestos he came in contact with fifty years ago. With so much time having passed, it was extremely difficult to prove this. Weitz & Luxenberg knows how to prove that your asbestos exposure caused your illness. We have been handling asbestos lawsuits successfully for over 20 years. Weitz & Luxenberg has access to some of the top resources in the country, and we can pin point exactly who made you sick, when they did it, and how it happened. For more information on filing a lawsuit against the company that made you ill, contact Weitz & Luxenberg today by filling out the form on this page.

The asbestos cover-up

In 1935, the President of Johns-Manville, Sumner Simpson, sent a letter indicating the company’s plan to keep the damaging reports about asbestos a secret. In the letter, Simpson writes:

I think the less said about asbestos, the better off we are, but at the same time, we do not lose track of the fact that there have been a number of articles about asbestos dust control and asbestosis in the British trade magazines. The magazine Asbestos is in the business to publish articles affecting the trade and they have been very decent about not re-printing the English articles...

In 1943, the president of Johns-Manville criticized the managers of another asbestos company for warning their employees about asbestos hazards. The manager replied with, "Do you mean to tell me you would let them work until they dropped dead?"

Johns-Manville’s president said in response, "Yes. We save a lot of money that way." (

In 1976, Johns-Manville’s medical director was asked in court whether he had ever recommended to the company that they place warning labels on their asbestos-containing products. The medical director, Kenneth W. Smith, responded with:

[Johns-Manville] had to take into consideration the effects of everything they did, and if the applications of a caution label identifying a product as hazardous would cut out sales, there would be serious financial implications…[Johns-Manville] judge[d] the necessity of the label versus the consequences of placing the label on the product.

Johns-Manville knew about the asbestos health hazards since 1858

Johns-Manville started in 1858 with the H. W. Johns Manufacturing Company in New York City. The company was founded because of asbestos. The first goods manufactured were fire resistant roofing materials. Since the very beginning of their company, Johns-Manville worked in the asbestos business. They have also known since the beginning that asbestos causes diseases.

In 1929, in Newark, New Jersey Samuel Greenstone filed a lawsuit against Johns-Manville on behalf of Anna Pirskowski (Jennings). This was the first lawsuit concerning an asbestos-related disease ever to be brought against Johns-Manville.

Between 1929 and 1982, hundreds of thousands of lawsuits were filed against Johns-Manville from former employees. The individuals filing these lawsuits want just compensation for the illnesses caused by Johns-Manville’s negligence. Medical bills alone for mesothelioma range into the hundreds of thousands. Altogether, some people’s medical expenses have exceeded one million dollars. By the late 1970’s the evidence that Johns-Manville hid information that could have protected people from getting sick is public knowledge. In 1982, with the vast number of former employees bringing to light their suffering from asbestos-related illnesses into the courtroom, Johns-Manville files for bankruptcy.

Johns-Manville knowingly put everyone that came in contact with their asbestos-containing products at risk of long and agonizing cancers such as mesothelioma – although, no one was more at risk of developing these illnesses then the workers who handled asbestos on a daily basis. These people were your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your parents, and yourself that Johns-Manville made sick because of their negligence.

Travelers Insurance knew asbestos dangers and denied compensation

      [They were all] such decent men – just hard-working men. [They] lived for their families. They got this disease just from doing a hard day’s work.

                     - Cora Tiffin, the wife of a man afflicted with mesothelioma


After Johns-Manville files for bankruptcy, the mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis sufferers looked to Travelers Insurance Company to receive compensation for their illnesses. An estimated 600,000 people still needed compensation and given that Travelers was Johns-Manville’s insurer, these individuals sought compensation from them. Travelers refused to compensate those made ill by Johns-Manville’s negligence.

Travelers Insurance also suppressed knowledge of asbestos dangers as shown in an internal memo warning of the potential lawsuits filed against Johns-Manville:

“Asbestosis, lung or colon cancer claims whether comp or liability, from asbestos workers or those working with asbestos materials, are one thing, but the general public exposure and claim potential is much more serious.” Later in the memo, the author writes, “Confidentially, Johns-Manville has been contaminating the ‘Hell’ out of both the air and the water for quite some time.”

It took until 2010, before the Supreme Court ruled against Travelers Insurance, and ordered them to compensate those with asbestos-related diseases caused by Johns-Manville (

How Weitz & Luxenberg can help

Weitz & Luxenberg has been successfully handling asbestos-related cases for over two decades. We know the law when it comes to asbestos cases, and we can help you get the compensation you deserve. Johns-Manville is one of many asbestos manufacturing companies that intentionally withheld evidence about the dangers of asbestos. Once they knew that asbestos would take the lives of many of their employees, these companies did not even provide them with protective gear. This gear could have saved lives.

With Weitz & Luxenberg handling your case, you can rest assured you will be treated with respect and compassion. If you, or your parents, or even grandparents have an asbestos-related disease, we can find out exactly who was responsible for it. All of the work is provided by our firm and we ask for no payment until a case is concluded in your favor.

To get started, simply fill out the form on this page. After submitting the form, a representative of Weitz & Luxenberg will be in touch with you within 24 hours.


Sources its legal, ethical, and global environment by Marianne Jennings, 2005

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