W.R. Grace & Co. was a large manufacturer of asbestos-containing products, such as insulation, plaster, and cement, during much of the 20th century. One of its biggest products, Zonolite loose-fill attic insulation, was installed in millions of homes in the United States. (Asbestos.com)
In the early 1960s, W.R. Grace bought a vermiculite mine and processing mill in Libby, Montana. This site was operated until 1990. It is estimated that the mine produced up to 200,000 tons of vermiculite per year that was used in Zonolite attic insulation and related construction materials.
Asbestos Contamination in Libby Killed At Least 400 Residents
The mine was heavily contaminated with tremolite asbestos, and other types of asbestos-related minerals called richerite and winchite. Asbestos contaminated the entire town, as well as processing plants and warehouses across America. Products made from the dangerous mineral endangered workers, their families, residents of Libby, and consumers.
Public health officials believe that asbestos exposure killed at least 400 Libby, Montana, residents. This number will probably rise in the future because nearly 3,000 Libby residents have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.
W.R. Grace started to see personal injury lawsuits filed against it in the 1980s. By 2001, W.R. Grace was named in hundreds of thousands of personal injury lawsuits.
WRG Asbestos PI Trust Overview
On April 2, 2001, W.R. Grace & Co filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Throughout bankruptcy proceedings, the company faces many liability claims from the EPA. These claims mandated the company to reach settlements that would deal with cleanup efforts and costs needed for asbestos-contaminated sites. (Mesothelioma.com).
As part of the bankruptcy approval, the company was required to establish a trust fund to pay for asbestos personal injury claims against W.R. Grace.
The WRG Asbestos PI Trust provides resolutions for all asbestos personal injury claims that are filed against the WR Grace Company. (WRGraceasbestostrust.com). The Trust is intended to provide fair, equitable, and a substantially similar treatment for all personal injury trust claims that may exist against the company or could arise in the future.
The plan has two trust funds that compensate present and future victims of asbestos exposure caused by the company’s products:
- The WRG Asbestos PI Trust handles personal injury claims filed by victims of asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma. In 2015, the trust paid $353 million on 50,000 personal injury claims.
- The WRG Asbestos Property Damage Trust that covers the costs of cleaning up asbestos contamination caused by Zonolite insulation.
As of 2018, the payment percentage for the WRG Asbestos PI Trust was 26% of the case value. The percentage is higher than most other asbestos trust funds. In 2019, trustees of the fund proposed to boost the payment percentage to 35%.
Payments from the trust depend on the mesothelioma victim’s diagnosis. They are contingent on several criteria that are detailed when submitting an application for compensation from the fund. Compensation amounts are paid based on age, history of exposure, diagnosis, and firm settlement history.
In 2015, W.R. Grace made a final $490 million payment to the trust to close out its obligations to people who were injured by its asbestos-containing products. (Bizjournals.com)
Asbestos Lawsuits Involving W.R. Grace Company
The first asbestos personal injury lawsuits were filed against the company in the mid-1980s. Most plaintiffs were former miners and their loved ones in Libby. By 2000, approximately 150 wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits were filed against W.R. Grace by Libby residents. Six cases went to trial, and the rest were settled.
By 2010, another 800 residents of Libby filed personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits against W.R. Grace. The company also started to see lawsuits from people who worked with the W.R. Grace’s asbestos-containing products outside of Libby.
Before W.R. Grace filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company was named in at least 270,000 personal injury lawsuits. Approximately 150,000 claims were settled or dismissed. About 129,000 claims were still pending when the company went bankrupt.
The WRG Asbestos PI Trust handles all asbestos lawsuits against the company today.
Other Defendants Named in Personal Injury Lawsuits Filed By Libby Residents
There are other defendants today that are being sued by Libby residents who want compensation for asbestos-related diseases. Some of these defendants include:
- Maryland Casualty – W.R. Grace’s insurance company
- Burlington North Santa Fe – Hauled asbestos-contaminated ore for W.R. Grace
- International Paper – Ran a lumber mill in Libby
One notable lawsuit in 2008 resulted in a $16.25 million verdict for Marvin Penn. He claimed his asbestos cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos-containing products produced by Grace and other companies. The jury determined W.R. Grace was 40% responsible for the man’s illness.
Criminal Charges Filed Against W.R. Grace Company
In 2005, the federal government charged W.R. Grace and several executives with hiding the health consequences of asbestos contamination in Libby, Montana. Records subpoenaed from the company showed that senior executives knew as early as the 1970s that asbestos in the Libby mine was killing some employees and Libby residents.
The criminal trial started in early 2009. After 90 days at trial, the jury acquitted the defendants of all charges. Many residents of the town were disappointed in the decision. They thought the acquittal was a result of evidence being restricted before 1999 for the charge of conspiracy.
W.R. Grace Asbestos Products That Endangered Worker Health
W.R. Grace became a large supplier of many asbestos-related products over the decades. Most of its products were marketed under the Zonolite, Monokote, and Perltex brand names. These items included loose-fill attic insulation, spray-on insulation and fireproofing, cement, and textured spray paint.
Some of the most common W.R. Grace products that contained asbestos were:
- Zonolite Attic Insulation
- Zonolite Fireproofing
- Zonolite Insulating Cement
- Zonolite Spraytex
- Zonolite Mono-kote Cement
Workers that were most at risk of exposure when working with W.R. Grace products were:
- HVAC workers
- Mill workers
- Construction workers
- Demolition workers
W.R. Graces’ asbestos-containing products endangered and killed thousands of workers, consumers, and Libby, Montana residents.
If you or a loved one has contracted an asbestos-related disease from a W.R. Grace product, talk to a mesothelioma attorney today. He or she can determine if you may be eligible for compensation. If so you can file a claim with the WRG Asbestos PI Trust to obtain funds for your damages.