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Companies, residents work toward 'global' asbestos settlement (1)

After several years of lawsuits and settlement negotiations, it appears that the embattled residents of Libby, Montana, may soon see some progress in their ongoing asbestos case. According to media reports, mesothelioma attorneys for the Libby asbestos victims are working toward settlements with the companies that are responsible for the widespread asbestos exposure that has plagued the small town of Libby and its residents for decades.

That exposure was caused by W.R. Grace & Co.'s longtime operation of a vermiculite mine just outside of Libby. As a result of Grace's mining, asbestos was spread throughout the town, causing many of its residents to be exposed to the deadly fibers on a daily basis. Now, it is estimated that some 3,000 Libby residents have contracted mesothelioma as a result of that exposure. With the long latency period of asbestos-related illnesses, that number is only expected to grow in the coming years.

About a year ago, the state of Montana agreed to a $43 million settlement with the victims of Grace's dangerous mining practices. No such settlement had yet been reached with Grace, its insurers or any other companies that were responsible for the asbestos exposure, despite several years of negotiations between residents and the companies. Now, that appears to be changing.

The most significant portion of the settlement will be funded by W.R. Grace, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2001 and set up an Asbestos Personal Injury Committee as part of its bankruptcy reorganization plan. We will detail the Grace settlement and discuss other resolutions in our next blog post.

Source: The Daily Inter Lake, "Asbestos settlements part of 'global' deal," Lynnette Hintze, Oct. 20, 2012

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