Impact of W.R. Grace Asbestos Trial on Asbestos Trust Unknown

W.R. Grace Asbestos Trial for Asbestos Contamination in Libby, MT

LIBBY, MT - February 20, 2009 - The former owner of the Libby, Montana vermiculite mine, W.R. Grace & Co., and six former company executives are facing criminal charges for allegedly contaminating the town of Libby with airborne asbestos. Grace, which filed for bankruptcy in 2001, may be fined $280 million or more if convicted of the alleged environmental violations. Such a large fine would have a profound effect on Grace's Chapter 11 reorganization plan, potentially impacting the $2.4 billion asbestos trust allocated for people with asbestos-related injuries.

Grace filed for bankruptcy in response to more than 100,000 asbestos injury claims. It is estimated that about 1,200 people in and around Libby have suffered from asbestos diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure from Grace's vermiculite mine. As part of their Chapter 11 reorganization, a $2.4 billion asbestos trust was proposed to compensate people with asbestos-related injuries caused by Grace's products. In March of 2008, Grace agreed to pay the EPA $250 million to cover the costs associated with the clean up of Libby. More recently, Grace accepted Zonolite property damage claims, first in the U.S. and now in Canada.

In a November 7, 2009, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Grace said that if convicted of the alleged conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and violations of the Clean Air Act, it may have to pay $280 million in fines. It also informed the SEC it might need to borrow as much as $1.5 billion to help fund the asbestos trust and pay other creditors.

Residents and Consumers Ultimately Affected

As Grace remains at the center of the largest environmental and criminal prosecution the U.S. has ever filed against an alleged corporate polluter, those directly affected by Grace's mining operation have the most to lose. Due to the latency period between asbestos exposure and disease development, residents of Libby and consumers of asbestos contaminated vermiculite continue to run the risk of developing an asbestos disease regardless of the criminal trial's outcome.

Recent Trial Coverage on Asbestos Network:

  • "You can't mine completely clean vermiculite.... It's impossible."
  • W.R. Grace Aware of Tremolite Asbestos Dangers from Libby Mine
  • W.R. Grace Knowingly Sold Land Covered in Asbestos-Laden Vermiculite
  • Appeals Court Overturns Asbestos Witness Courtroom Exclusion
  • Libby Residents Suffered From Asbestos Mine, W.R. Grace Asbestos Trial

Asbestos Diseases and Your Legal Rights

For over 24 years, Brayton Purcell's asbestos attorneys have represented injured individuals and their families in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits for asbestos-related diseases, including asbestosis and mesothelioma. Our asbestos bankruptcy department is available to assist claimants in filing necessary trust documents.