Six judges were recently added in Montana due to the backlog of asbestos-related cases swelling court dockets.
Mining despite fatal risks to workers and residents
After almost two decades since the town of Libby, Montana, made national headlines as one of the worst environmental mining disasters in history, many victims and their families have yet to find a light at the end of the tunnel. The harms inflicted on townspeople and visitors stems from vermiculite mining operations that initially helped the small community flourish. But the materials pulled from Libby-area mining was rife with asbestos and has reportedly been attributed to hundreds of deaths and thousands of illnesses.
The mine operated from 1919 to 1990 and the fallout sparked among the most protracted asbestos litigation on record. Despite national headlines highlighting the issue, cases have remained pending in the courts for more than 15 years.
Thousands of lawsuits
The outfit that profited from the Libby mining operation filed bankruptcy in federal court in a move that hindered upwards of 2,200 cases from going forward. With the bankruptcy proceedings concluded, more than 40 defendants have been identified, and the appointment of six additional judges is expected to help unclog the backlog.
The judges appointed to the asbestos litigation are said to be putting in numerous unpaid work hours to help facilitate the process. Unfortunately, the Herculean efforts of judges have not been enough to cut significantly into the backlog.
The United States has been joined by more than 60 countries to ban asbestos mining. However, the Montana Supreme Court expects 200 asbestos-related lawsuits to be filed annually as previous asbestos exposure manifests into life-threatening illnesses each year.