Congoleum Corporation (Trenton)
For over 120 years, Congoleum Corporation has been a flooring industry giant. As the manufacturer of residential and commercial products, they produce tiles and sheet flooring. The roots of Congoleum Corporation reach as far back as the 1800’s. In the spirit of entrepreneurship, Michael Nairn began his business in Scotland, taking sailcloth and turning it into canvas floor coverings. The popularity of the product grew, and in 1880, he relocated to the United States.
Nairn settled in Kearny, New Jersey. His company grew, and before long he was manufacturing linoleum flooring for homes and businesses. The first merger came in 1920, when he joined forces with the Pennsylvania-based manufacturer of Congoleum. A simulated wood grain product, it was used for decorative borders on both linoleum and area rugs.
The company was renamed Congoleum-Nairn. In the 1950’s, they introduced a successful launch of vinyl floor sheets in 12-foot widths. The product was a success and the business continued to flourish for the next 43 years. Then in 1993, they announced a joint partnership with Amtico Floors. This added a line of resilient tiles to the company’s growing list of products. Today, the Congoleum Corporation is headquartered in Trenton, New Jersey. The bulk of their flooring products are manufactured there. A second facility handles the production of the tile products. Satellite offices are operated out of both Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Between the years of 1947 and 1983, many of Congoleum’s products contained encapsulated asbestos. This included their best selling vinyl and asphalt tiles as well as vinyl sheet flooring. The corporation began having trouble with asbestos related lawsuits in 1981. Between the years of 1981 and 2002, there were more than 70,000 claims made against Congoleum for asbestos-related injuries. They settled 33,000 of those cases, to the tune of 13.5 Million dollars. They remainder were dismissed.
In light of these problems, the corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January of 1996. By the end of 2003, they had enough claimant votes to proceed with a plan that included a $2.1 million package for providing relief to asbestos personal injury victims. Court approval was obtained in 2008, which included an agreement between Congoleum, the Official Committee of Bondholders, Official Asbestos Claimants’ Committee, future claimants, claim holders prior to 2003, and other individuals. The settlement provided for the establishment of a trust that superseded any previous liabilities. It also freed them from any future claims arising out of asbestos litigation.