Pennsylvania residents may have heard that the W.R. Grace vermiculite mine in the town of Libby, Montana, closed in the 1990s but not before hundreds of workers contracted asbestos-related diseases. The affected workers filed a lawsuit against Maryland Casualty Company, the company that provided Grace with workers’ compensation insurance from 1963 to 1973.
Plaintiffs alleged that Maryland Casualty knew about the danger of asbestos exposure when mining vermiculite, a mineral that naturally occurs in asbestos-laden rock. Despite this knowledge, the insurer did nothing to warn workers about the danger.
In 2017, a Montana Asbestos Claims Court judge found Maryland Casualty liable; the insurer appealed, saying that Grace was responsible for warning its employees. Finally, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that the insurer indeed had a legal duty to warn workers. First of all, the insurer had assumed the responsibility of employee-specific medical monitoring, and Grace had always relied on the insurer to perform certain safety functions and protocols.
Specifically, the vermiculite that was being mined contained amphibole asbestos. Inhaling this will lead to serious lung conditions. The Grace mine case is far from the only asbestos-related injury case that the Montana trial courts will hear. There are literally hundreds of such cases.
Pursuing an asbestos exposure case can be difficult, so victims may want legal representation. A lawyer may have a network of third parties like investigators and medical experts who can gather proof against the defendant and help determine how much victims might be eligible for based on the extent of their injury.
Whether the defendant is an employer or the maker of an asbestos-containing product, the lawyer may be able to negotiate for a fair settlement on victims’ behalf. If successful, victims might be reimbursed for medical expenses both past and future, lost wages and more.