Victims of asbestos related disease caused by exposure to W.R. Grace products may have to wait longer to receive compensation from the W.R. Grace Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust. Although the company has been in bankruptcy for eleven years, appeals may still be filed up until July 11th, 2012, contesting the U.S. District Court’s confirmation of the company’s reorganization plan.
From 1963 until 1990, W.R. Grace operated large scale vermiculite mines in Libby, Montana. The vermiculite W.R. Grace mined was used in production of it’s product Zonolite attic insulation. It is estimated that as many as 35 million businesses and homes were insulated with Zonolite attic insulation between 1920 and 1990. However, unbeknownst to the general public, the vermiculite being mined by W.R. Grace at Libby was contaminated with asbestos.
In 2005, W.R. Grace and 7 executives at the Libby, Montana site, were indicted and faced prosecution from the U.S. Department of Justice for “knowingly” harming the people of Libby, Montana, and concealing information regarding the health hazards associated with it’s mining operation. According to the indictment, over 1200 Libby residents were suffering from an asbestos ailment. The case went to trial in 2009. Ultimately the company was acquitted in criminal proceeding that lasted over four years with appeals reaching the Supreme Court.
W.R. Grace sought bankruptcy protection in 2001. The company has faced over 270,000 lawsuits stemming from asbestos related claims, with approximately 120,000 cases still unsettled. It was alleged by the Justice Department, that prior to filing for bankruptcy, W.R. Grace illegally transferred four billion to five billion to other companies, to shield it from the bankruptcy court. Thereafter the Court ordered approximately one billion dollars be returned to the company coffers.
It is anticipated that there will be many more claims filed with the W.R. Grace Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust, by individuals who were exposed to Zonolite vermiculite contaminated with asbestos, and have since developed asbestos related diseases.