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Insurer seeks recovery of settlement paid to asbestos victims

In September, we wrote about a settlement that had been reached between the state of Montana and more than 1,000 plaintiffs who had been injured by the mass asbestos exposure that plagued the small mining town of Libby, Montana.

Now, a Nebraska insurance company has filed a lawsuit against the state, asking a judge to order the return of any settlement payments that were outside the state's insurance policy. State officials believe that the lawsuit will not affect any of the plaintiffs' settlement payments, which were placed in a trust that is being kept separate from the suit.

The settlement was the product of a lawsuit filed against the state of Montana by 1,128 plaintiffs who alleged that the state was aware of the health dangers posed by the nearby W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite mine. Although the mine was closed in 1990, it caused thousands of people in the region to be diagnosed with mesothelioma. To date, approximately 400 deaths and more than 1,700 injuries have been attributed to the mine and its asbestos.

The plaintiffs first filed a lawsuit against the state in 2002, and in September, a judge approved a $27 million settlement. You can read more about the settlement in our earlier asbestos blog post.

Now, Omaha-based National Indemnity Co. has filed a lawsuit against the state, seeking the return of any funds paid toward the settlement that were outside the state's insurance policy. In sum, $16 million was paid by the insurer to the state to cover part of the settlement. The remaining amounts came from the state's self-insurance reserve fund and other sources.

Source: The Republic, "Nebraska insurer sues Montana over Libby asbestos settlement, seeks to recover $16.1 million," Matthew Brown, Feb. 24, 2012

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