Weyerhaeuser is defendant in nearly 2,400 asbestos suits

FEDERAL WAY — Weyerhaeuser has been named in 2,387 asbestos lawsuits, Vice President of Finance Richard Taggart said in a conference call with analysts yesterday.

Costs for those lawsuits aren't "material," he said.

More than half of the cases, 1,400 of them, are from sailors who claim to have been exposed to asbestos on company ships in the 1940s. The company has reserved $2.4 million for such cases and it also has insurance to cover costs, Taggart said.

Asbestos, used through the 1980s to make insulation, roofing and other materials fire-retardant, has been tied to cancer and respiratory diseases. Asbestos-lawsuit costs have driven more than 50 companies into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Weyerhaeuser was named in 190 new cases in the third quarter for a paper product that it had bought, creating a total of 541 cases, Taggart said.

Another 399 cases come from other Weyerhaeuser workers. The company has established a $17.3 million reserve for those costs, of which it has used $16.2 million through the third quarter.

Twenty-seven cases relate to mainly contractors that claimed to have been exposed to asbestos while working on Weyerhaeuser property. The average cost for those contractor-related cases that have been settled is $10,000, he said.

Twenty more cases are because of a door made from 1968 to 1972, Taggart said.

The company has not detailed its asbestos cases before. Taggart didn't disclose the total amount paid to settle asbestos-related cases.