Asbestos Company Settles, Leaves Montana Residents in the Dust

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W.R. Grace & Co., the mining company responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Libby, Montana residents, is finally going to pay for the damage it did. Well, sort of. On Monday, the company reached a $3 billion settlement with the families of people killed and those made ill by asbestos from the company’s vermiculite mine between 1963 and 1990.The problem is the effects of asbestos don’t immediately present themselves, so Grace’s battle with Libby residents should be far from over because future diagnoses and lawsuits are sure to arise.
But this week’s settlement encompasses all future lawsuits as well, meaning current and future victims are going to get measly sums. The company isn’t saying how it will calculate everyone’s share but if the $3 billion were to be evenly dispersed to settle only the existing 120,000 lawsuits, each victim would receive $25,000. And that doesn’t even account for the folks who will undoubtedly contract cancer and other asbestos-related diseases in the years to come. As the company’s vice president told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Grace “want[s] to get on with business.”

Mother Jones investigated the presence of asbestos in Eldorado Hills, CA in our May/June 2007 issue. But unlike the people in Libby, residents there only have government officials and themselves to blame.

—Celia Perry

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