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City settles asbestos lawsuit

When companies make the decision to expand their business, or even when prospective homeowners decide to buy or build a home, the process of determining and discovering what used to be in that space, and whether any potentially harmful activity took place there, can be a long and difficult one. Sellers are not always quick to reveal negative aspects about their property, such as the existence of asbestos in the ground or the building. But failing to disclose this information can lead to significant legal liability, as was demonstrated in a recent settlement between a city and a company that purchased former city property.

The lawsuit was filed by a company owner who purchased property from the city of Beloit, Wisconsin, which is about 300 miles north of Madison County. According to the lawsuit, the city failed to address asbestos problems in the property, which was the former site of the city's public works department before it was sold to the company in 1998.

The city reportedly provided a letter to the owner's attorney, assuring him that the building had been fully cleared of asbestos before the sale was made. However, the owner claims that he found asbestos in 2008, after he and his employees had been working in the building for 10 years.

A few weeks ago, the city agreed to pay $270,000 in a settlement with the owner after the Beloit city council voted unanimously to approve the offer. All parties seem satisfied with the settlement, and the owner's attorney told a local newspaper that the decision was "long overdue."

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Beloit to pay $270,000 to settle asbestos lawsuit," 27 July 2011

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