Residents of Libby, Montana who have contracted mesothelioma and other disease from exposure to asbestos will share a $43 million dollar settlement.
The settlement is a response to 200 lawsuits filed over the contaminated W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite mine outside of Libby. A Montana district court ruled that the state failed to “warn and protect” Libby residents about the dangers of asbestos, which include mesothelioma. According to the Los Angeles Times, payouts for the 1,300 plaintiffs will range from $500 to more than $50,000. The state did not admit liability as part of the settlement and those who signed it agreed to release the state from future claims.
Although the Libby mine has been closed since 1990 and the Environmental Protection Agency has spent more than $370 million trying to rid the town of asbestos, more than 1750 Libby residents have already contracted mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases. More than 400 have died of mesothelioma, a disease whose only known cause is asbestos exposure. Many mesothelioma victims in Libby worked at the mine, but others contracted the disease through secondary exposure on work clothes or by simply living too close to the site.
Former Libby resident Mike Nelson grew up in the town and now suffers from asbestosis. His attitude reflects that of many of the plaintiffs. “I’ve lost my father, my mother, my stepmother and my father in law,” Nelson told the Associated Press. “They’re all dead. W.R. Grace was the one responsible, but right now I hate my government. The state knew. (The money) isn’t going to do anything for me.”
At the same time, the family of late actor Merlin Olsen has settled a lawsuit with 10 asbestos companies that they claim are responsible for his mesothelioma. Olsen died in 2010 of mesothelioma he believed was caused by construction work in his youth. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the former football Hall of Famer’s wife and three children filed a notice of settlement in Los Angeles. Details of the settlement were not released.
“Judge approves $43M settlement for Montana asbestos victims who said the state did not protect them”, Associated Press Report, The Washington Post, September 16, 2011.
“Merlin Olsen’s heirs settle asbestos lawsuit in LA”, Associated Press Report, Bloomberg Businessweek, September 20, 2011.