PORT LUDLOW — A Port Ludlow woman is one of potentially thousands of U.S. residents who will benefit from a multi-million dollar trust fund created for victims of asbestos poisoning in the late 1940s to late 1950s.
Delores Hagerman, 83, was married to Ken Hagerman, 80, for 53 years before he died in September from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. He was exposed to asbestos dust as a child in the 1950s when his father returned home from work at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) at Bremerton.
Delores Hagerman is among hundreds of Washington residents who will share in a portion of a $610 million trust fund created through a settlement with Owens-Illinois Inc.
The company had manufactured an asbestos insulation called Kaylo in the 1940s and 1950s that was used at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and other facilities throughout the region.
A settlement was reached in May. Final allotments of money for each of the victims are still being finalized, with more clarity expected by the end of summer, said attorney Matthew Bergman, founding partner of Bergman Draper Oslund Udo, which represented the Hagermans.
Bergman’s law firm specializes in helping victims of asbestos-caused illness in the Pacific Northwest.
Mesothelioma takes 30 to 50 years to develop and the cause can be from direct or indirect exposure, so it is unknown exactly how many people this trust will affect, the attorney said.
Bergman estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people had been injured directly by Kaylo during that time, and potentially 15,000 to 20,000 people injured indirectly, with Kitsap County residents making up a very large percentage due to PSNS and other shipyards and facilities that used Kaylor from 1948-1958, he said.
While it is still unknown how much money Delores will receive, she expects the payment will be enough to allow her to keep the house that Ken built himself, and that she still lives in with some of her adult children staying with her, she said.
Delores and Ken had five children, two sons and three daughters, and now have 17 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren; most live in Kitsap County, she said.
Both of Ken’s parents died of cancer, and when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2018, he thought there may have been a connection — and he was right, Bergman said.
Owens-Illinois created a subsidiary, Paddock Enterprises LLC, before filing for bankruptcy in January 2020 under the weight of thousands of asbestos injury claims, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Delores, who had survived breast cancer, suffered a stroke during Ken’s cancer treatment, but both agreed last year to travel to Delaware, where the Owens-Illinois bankruptcy was pending, to seek appointment to the Asbestos Creditors Committee, Bergman said.
Ken Hagerman was one of 150 the applicants interviewed by the United States Trustee. He was appointed, along with eight others from other parts of the country, to represent the interests of all asbestos victims in moving the bankruptcy toward settlement, Bergman said.
“It wasn’t easy for us to travel, but when we met with the other families going through the same thing, it felt like the right thing to do,” Delores said.
“As Ken was confronted with his terminal mesothelioma, it gave him comfort to know that his service on the committee would continue to benefit asbestos victims after he passed,” she said.
She is glad that they were able to work on the committee: “I think it’s the best thing we did.
“Ken was always looking out for other people,” Delores said.
“If you were a friend of Ken’s, he would help you do anything,” she said. “If you name it, he could do it.
“I’m grateful to our wonderful attorney and others who helped us navigate this difficult time,” she added.
Bergman feels mixed emotions about the settlement being reached. He’s glad he was able to bring justice to the victims, but he wished Ken would have been alive to see it.
“I really wish Ken had been able to see the results of his efforts, of his bravery and his courage,” Bergman said. “Ken was not a lawyer, he wasn’t a litigator or someone who was looking for publicity, but he felt that this was the right thing to do.
“I guess I’m sad he didn’t get to live to see the results of his efforts and courage, but I also know as he continued to confront his final illness, he got a lot of comfort in knowing that his efforts and his bravery would help people,” he continued.
“I’m cognizant that there’s no amount of money that can fairly and adequately compensate the Hagerman family, and all the other families, for what they went through and what they’re going to go through.”
Most asbestos victims work through an attorney to access funds from an asbestos trust because the trusts have stringent requirements on both exposure and medical causation to ensure only qualified claimants get paid.
Generally, it takes a lawyer with experience with asbestos litigation to prosecute a successful trust claim, Bergman said.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]