Libby, Montana - The Legislative Fiscal Division has confirmed that the $43 million payout to settle the claims of the asbestos victims in Libby, Montana will be covered entirely by the state’s general fund. Attorneys for the over 1,100 claimants suffering from asbestos diseases, such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, initially told their clients that the state’s insurance would split the cost of the settlement. However, this is no longer the case.
The sleepy mining town of Libby was catapulted into the national spotlight in 1999, when it was discovered that the W.R. Grace Company had covered up the dangers of the asbestos-laden vermiculite coming out of the mine, thereby exposing people to large quantities of this hazardous minerals over a prolonged period. And it wasn’t just the miners who were exposed. Their families and most of the town’s residents are suffering some type of asbestos cancer. Hundreds of residents have already died, thousands are sick, and others may yet have begun to show signs of illness. Mesothelioma, for example can take decades to become symptomatic.
The settlement is still awaiting legislative and court approval, but as it stands now, tax-payer money, not corporate funds will be compensating Libby’s sick residents. The current settlement would also protect the state of Montana and various state agencies from future claims related to Libby’s mines. Additionally, if any Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement claim exists against an asbestos victim, settlement funds would not be released to the victim until the claim has been reimbursed. What’s worse still is that victims suffering from mesothelioma disease, classified as one of the worst applicable illnesses, would only receive $60,723 each.