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Companies, residents work toward 'global' asbestos settlement (2)

Earlier this week, we wrote an asbestos blog post about the pending settlement between residents of Libby, Montana, and the companies responsible for the mass asbestos exposure and mesothelioma diagnoses that have plagued the small town.

Under the expected settlement with W.R. Grace & Co., which operated the vermiculite mine that is responsible for so much of that asbestos exposure, the company has reportedly agreed to fund the Libby Medical Program with nearly $20 million. Grace voluntarily founded the medical program in 2000 in order to provide medical coverage to asbestos victims in Libby. It currently pays about $2 million to the program to cover participants' health care costs.

After making the $20 million deposit, the company will terminate that program and transfer that amount to a locally-run Libby Medical Plan Trust. The new trust will reportedly accept all of the medical program's current members.

One significant condition of the proposed settlement is that it will require all Libby residents who have pursued legal action against Grace to withdraw their objections to the company's bankruptcy plan, effectively ending any potential for litigation between the two groups. However, Libby claimants will reportedly become eligible to receive payouts from Grace's Asbestos Personal Injury Trust, which is being established through its bankruptcy reorganization process.

In another proposed settlement, BNSF Railway Co. has reached a settlement with Grace under which the latter will pay the former $8 million from its Asbestos Personal Injury Trust. Under the settlement, Grace will reportedly grant contractual indemnity to BNSF.

It remains to be seen whether this proposed settlement is adopted by all parties. It is promising, however, that some progress has been made and that Libby's embattled asbestos victims may soon be completely cared for, in both a medical and financial sense.

Source: The Daily Inter Lake, "Asbestos settlements part of 'global' deal," Lynnette Hintze, Oct. 20, 2012

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