Anyone who grew up in or around Cloquet, Minnesota, has likely heard of Conwed Corporation, or the Wood Conversion Company. Many people worked at this company for many years, or even over their summer breaks from school.
During Conwed’s operation in Cloquet, it was one of the largest employers in the area. However, as many families might know, it was also a dangerous place to work.
The risk lies within the dust
Conwed manufactured several products for interior construction and design, including:
- Ceiling tiles
- Wall insulation
- Wooden furniture
Between 1958 and 1974, the Cloquet plant used asbestos to create many of those products. And according to the Minnesota Department of Health, the workers in several departments faced a high risk of exposure to asbestos fibers on the job, especially if their job involved mixing, sawing or grinding materials.
In short, the jobs that created the most dust in the manufacturing process placed workers at the most risk.
Most notably, the case that the family of Gene R. Backe brought against Conwed included alarming statements describing:
- Asbestos fibers released into the air within the workplace and a significant lack of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- His father coming home from Conwed covered in asbestos dust
This testimony alone illustrates the risk Cloquet residents faced both on the job and from secondary exposure. And yet, even with such statements from many former employees, Conwed still attempts to ignore their responsibility.
Can Conwed escape liability?
This case is so critical to take note of because it set an example to allow Minnesota courts to have jurisdiction over asbestos claims against the company.
Conwed moved their headquarters and left Minnesota in 1985. The company states that because of this move, the asbestos cases against them in Minnesota – like Backe’s – should be dismissed. However, the Court of Appeals denied this claim in July 2020.
Filing a claim against a large corporation can be a challenge. Companies like Conwed often try tactics to avoid liability for putting the health of workers and their families at risk. Minnesota families must be aware of these challenges, but it is possible to recover compensation with experienced legal guidance, no matter how large the company.