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Case linking lawn fertilizer to mesothelioma moves forward

We have written extensively on the vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana. Run by the W.R. Grace Company, the nation’s largest vermiculite mine was also home to extensive asbestos deposits. Mining the vermiculite ore disturbed the asbestos, leading to workers and residents being exposed to asbestos dust in large quantities and contaminating the vermiculite with dangerous and carcinogenic asbestos fibers. It remains one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in the country.

Now, a lawsuit is alleging that a product contaminated with asbestos from the Libby mine resulted in the death of a New Jersey man.

Turf Builder may have had asbestos

The largest consumer of Libby vermiculite was Scott’s, the lawn and garden company, which used vermiculite filler in its Turf Builder fertilizer product. In 2012, a New Jersey man who used Scott’s Turf Builder twice per year from 1967 to 1980 sued the company for exposing him unknowingly to asbestos.

Ultimately, Scott’s did not produce any samples of its Turf Builder product made from Libby vermiculite at trial, despite requests to do so. The judge subsequently excluded expert testimony that backed up the plaintiff’s case and granted summary judgment for Scott’s. Essentially, the case was dismissed. The man was then unable to proceed to trial. 

Appeals court grants new trial

In a separate lawsuit, it was revealed that Scott’s did indeed have samples of its Turf Builder product that used vermiculite ore from the mine in Libby.

In February, a New Jersey appeals court held that the "newly discovered" Turf Builder samples constituted new evidence, and granted a new trial. This means the man’s family may now — finally — have a chance to bring their case to court. The man who developed mesothelioma and originally sued died in 2012. His wife is bringing a wrongful death lawsuit against Scott’s.

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