Todd Shipyards Corporation History of Asbestos Exposure
Todd Shipyards was founded in 1916 after a property acquisition by William Henry Todd. During World War II, the company built various ships and submarines for the US Navy and continued to do so at its seven shipyards until it sold to private investors in the 1980s. At one point, Todd Shipyard Corporation was the largest private shipbuilding company in the United States.
The company was headquartered in Seattle, Washington, and was responsible for building a wide range of ships, including cargo ships, tankers, destroyers, and submarines. At its peak during World War II, the company employed 17,000 people. After the war, Todd Shipyards continued to expand its operations and acquired several other companies, including a steel fabrication company and a marine engineering firm. Financial difficulties in the 1980s forced Todd Shipyards to close some of its sites, though the company continued to operate until the early 2000s. Today, Vigor Industrial, a shipbuilding and repair company based in Portland, Oregon, owns the shipyard.
Asbestos Exposure at Todd Shipyards
Due to its heat-resistant properties, asbestos was widely used on military ships from the 1930s through the 1970s. The cancer-causing mineral was used in insulation, fireproofing, and other materials that were essential for the safety of the ship and crew. Although they were aware of the health risks associated with asbestos exposure, the Navy continued to use the material for decades.
Several military occupations, including those at Todd Shipyards, pose a risk of asbestos exposure, including mechanics, shipbuilders, pipe-fitters, boiler technicians, and electricians. Asbestos exposure can occur when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, releasing tiny fibers into the air. People may inhale or ingest these fibers, leading to potential health risks.
Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases as service-connected disabilities. Efforts have been made to remove asbestos from military ships, but older ships and shipyards may still contain contaminated materials. The Navy has implemented strict guidelines for handling asbestos during ship maintenance and repairs to minimize the risk of exposure.
Todd Shipyards Seattle, Washington Flagship Location
The Todd Shipyard facility in Seattle, Washington was founded in 1916 and was one of the West Coast’s largest shipbuilding and repair facilities. The Seattle location, once known as the Seattle Construction & Dry Dock Company, was one of three main locations in the original Todd Corporation, joining the Robins Dry Dock & Repair Company of New York and the Tietjen & Lang Dry Dock Company of New Jersey.
The Seattle-based shipyard pioneered the iron and steel shipbuilding industry on the West Coast, producing its first steel ship three years before the turn of the 20th century. For nearly 100 years, the Seattle shipyard continued accepting multi-million dollar contracts from the military to build, repair, and maintain vessels and aircraft.
Todd Shipyard Locations
Todd Shipyards operated in seven cities: Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, New Orleans, Houston, and Galveston. With plenty of land and employees, the average time for ship production and delivery at Todd Shipyards was much lower than the average time. Each location was equipped with various dry docks, commercial buildings, and a hospital.
Los Angeles Division
During World War II, Todd Shipyards purchased the land where the Los Angeles division was built near Sand Pedro, Los Angeles, California. The shipyard, previously known as the Los Angeles Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company built around 130 ships during its operation from 1917 to 1989. Medical treatment centers can also be found in the West LA area and utilized by veterans.
Todd Shipyards opened the Galveston division in 1934 as a tanker repair yard for the Navy and civilian contractors. The Galveston repair yard at Pelican Island was a primary division for Todd Shipyards. Nearly 100 ships were built or repaired at the Galveston location while in operation. The location closed in 1990, leaving the Seattle location as the last operating division of Todd Shipyards. VA Puget Sound Health Care System can also be found and utilized by shipyard workers in the area.
The Downfall of Todd Shipyards
Todd Shipyards’ peak fiscal year occurred in 1983 when production approached $800 million in contracts for the military and the private sector. Most of the seven locations at the time were focused on overhauling military vessels as the need for new military ships diminished.
By 1985, Todd Shipyards abandoned its shipyards in New Orleans and Houston and moved its corporate headquarters from New York to Jersey City. Military contracts were declining or being outbid and business began to slow. The company took a financial loss for the first time in its history shortly before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1987.
After selling off most of its assets, only the Seattle division of Todd Shipyards remained in 1990. For the next decade, Todd Shipyards struggled to make a profit but was able to come out of bankruptcy. Vigor Industrial acquired the remainder of the company for $130 million in 2011. The company operates as a government repair subsidiary under the name Vigor Shipyards.
Notable Ships Built or Repaired at Todds Shipyard
Todd Shipyards notably built and repaired Coast Guard cutters, ships, tankers, submarines, cargo ships, and commercial vessels. The construction of military ships is a complex process undertaken by specialized shipyards.
Some of these ships include extensive work on USS Ford, USS Fay, USCGC Polar Sea, and USCGC Polar Star. Other long-term maintenance projects were commissioned for the USS Camden, USS Rainier, USS Sacramento, and USS Bridge. Multi-year contracts for non-nuclear maintenance of aircraft carriers were also awarded to the shipyard for the USS Vinson, USS Lincoln, and USS Stennis.
Todd Shipyards Legal Settlements and Lawsuits
An asbestos settlement is a legal agreement between a plaintiff exposed to asbestos and a defendant responsible for the exposure. Settlement typically involves a payment of money to the plaintiff in exchange for dropping any legal claims against the defendant. Asbestos settlements can be reached through negotiations between parties or through a court-ordered settlement.
For veterans and service members, asbestos settlements can differ from those for civilians. Veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their Navy military service may be eligible for compensation through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA offers disability compensation to veterans diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses, such as mesothelioma or lung cancer, connected to their military services.
In addition to VA benefits, veterans could also be eligible for compensation through asbestos trust funds. The asbestos trust funds were established by companies that were responsible for exposing people to asbestos. These trust funds are intended to compensate those who have been harmed from exposure to asbestos while working for the defending company. The compensation received from settlements varies on a case-by-case basis but can cover the costs associated with traveling to cancer treatment centers.
Overall, asbestos settlements can provide essential financial support to veterans who are victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related conditions. It’s important for veterans to work with experienced mesothelioma attorneys who understand the unique challenges of pursuing an asbestos lawsuit related to military service.