More than a thousand people suffering from asbestos exposure in Libby, Montana, will soon receive the compensation they deserve in order to help them pay for a lifetime of medical care. As the Los Angeles Times is reporting, a state civil court judge in Montana approved a $43 million asbestos settlement for those who became sick or died due to asbestos exposure from local asbestos-ridden mine.
The mine, operated by W.R. Grace & Co., closed in 1990, but the asbestos risk still remains. Just 3,000 people live in the town of Libby, and nearly a thousand of them suffer from an asbestos-related illness. Another 400 Libby residents have died from asbestos diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis since the closure of the mine.
The Libby mine was the largest of its kind when it was in operation, and is now known as the deadliest federally designated hazardous waste sites in the history of our nation. Nearly 70 percent of the vermiculite mineral used in the U.S. over the last 80 years came from Libby, Montana. A majority of the town’s residents worked at the mine, and suffered occupational asbestos exposure. Even more residents suffered the effects of second-hand asbestos exposure, because workers carried the toxic asbestos mineral on their clothes and skin. Schools, building, and other public areas were also found to contain high levels of asbestos.
Our experienced mesothelioma attorneys know that asbestos-related illnesses can lie dormant for up to 50 years, so the extent of the exposure is still unknown. Federal cleanup of the mine already cost the federal government more than $370 million dollars, and more cleanup efforts are expected because it is believed that asbestos is still present in the area.
The District Court in Helena, Montana, recently approved a long-awaited settlement that will help some of these asbestos victims pay for expensive medical treatments. The court found that the state of Montana did not adequately warn and protect Libby residents from dangerous asbestos dust. Settlement funds will be distributed to the asbestos victims once the government determines the amount that will be required to cover Medicare costs.
Expert witness Dr. Alan Whitehouse, who treated Libby asbestos victims for several years, testified at trial, and his testimony was a key factor that led to the settlement. The state could not find any medical specialists to refute the medical proof he offered that linked Libby asbestos exposure to mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases.
Other asbestos exposure cases and potential settlements are still pending and more litigation is anticipated as asbestos-related symptoms become evident. Although W.R. Grace Company filed for bankruptcy in 2001, it may re-open itself to asbestos-related lawsuits if a judge approves its re-organization plan. For now, most of the settlement money will come from the state’s self-insurance reserve fund.
Our asbestos lawyers have worked with countless mesothelioma victims and their families, and we know the toll that asbestos-related illnesses can take on victims and their families. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma, and we have seen a number of companies knowingly expose their workers to serious health risks in an attempt to make a profit. These families have suffered serious financial hardships on account of asbestos exposure, and we understand that compensation is one way to help them cover the outrageous costs they are being forced to incur.