Asbestos victims sickened by exposure from W.R. Grace & Co.’s former vermiculite plant near Libby, Montana have long-awaited good news. The Washington Post is reporting a proposed bankruptcy deal that would put $19.5 million into a trust for people who lived and worked near the contaminated Montana mine. The significance of this settlement cannot be overlooked. The money will be used to offset the escalating costs of medical treatment for thousands of people who are suffering from mesothelioma, absestosis, and other asbestos-related diseases. The agreement also ensures that the company will continue to fund a critical medical program for the Libby victims even after bankruptcy proceedings have finalized.
The news comes more than a decade after a lawsuit was first filed against Montana state officials who failed to warn workers and their families of the significant asbestos exposure risk. The Libby mine and mill produced more than 1500 tons of asbestos-containing materials that were sold and distributed worldwide, eventually shutting down in 1990 after reports of hundreds of deaths and thousands of serious asbestos-related injuries. In an effort to escape liability, W.R. Grace & Co. filed for bankruptcy in 2001, putting all lawsuits on hold until a reorganization plan was approved and a bankruptcy trust was created for the asbestos victims.
On January 30, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware finally approved the asbestos-related bankruptcy plan that will allow claimants to be compensated. Property owners, mine workers, and secondhand parties who can prove that their diseases are the result of asbestos exposure are eligible to be paid from the trust, which is funded by sources such as cash, insurance proceeds and stock. Although the plan is subject to appeal, once the final settlement plan is approved, all objections to the plan will be withdrawn as a matter of law. Additionally, the bankruptcy agreement calls for the continuation of a medical plan that has been voluntarily operated and funded by the company since 2001. Asbestos victims may also be able to collect from a separate Asbestos Personal Injury Trust fund.
In addition to the latest proposed settlement, a $43 million settlement was also approved in September of 2011 for asbestos victims who brought claims against state agencies for failing to warn of the mine’s dangers. At least 200 of these claimants have already received some form of payment and hundreds more are close to reaching a resolution. Payments ranging from $500 to $60,000 have been made, with the ultimate payout depending on the severity of the individual victim’s injuries. The legal basis for these claims stems from evidence showing that the state knew that asbestos dust from the mine was causing serious injuries and deaths, but failed to fulfill its legal obligation to warn of the community-wide contamination. Records indicate that the mine repeatedly failed state inspections during a 30-year period, but failed to notify workers or residents of the hazardous conditions.
Experienced asbestos lawyers at Pintas & Mullins have worked with countless asbestos victims and their families who are struggling to cope with the substantial emotional and financial costs of asbestos-related diseases. We understand that symptoms of mesothelioma, an aggressive asbestos cancer, and other asbestos illnesses typically lay dormant in the body for decades, and even more injuries may be revealed in time. If you or a loved one has been harmed by toxic asbestos exposure while living or working near the Libby mine or any other contaminated worksite, our asbestos attorneys can help you secure compensation. We firmly believe that W.R. Mine & Co. and other negligent companies that have subjected workers to hazardous working conditions need to be held accountable for their actions, and we are committed to ensuring that the asbestos victims are adequately compensated for the harms that they were forced to suffer.