February 24, 2009

On Monday 23, 2009, opening statements began in a case brought by U.S. prosecutors against W.R. Grace & Co. and five former company executives, who were charged with knowingly exposing the residents of Libby, Montana to asbestos, which causes asbestos cancer.  During opening statements, the prosecution alleged that W.R. Grace & Co. (“Grace”) exposed its workers and town residents to asbestos during Grace’s mining operations.  The vermiculite mine, operated by Grace, produced bags of puffy white granules that were marketed throughout the United States and used to insulate attics, aerating gardens and potting soil. 

Grace Chose Asbestos Profits Over People

Prosecutors also alleged that “Grace chose profits at the expense of people’s health and chose avoiding government liability over disclosing the health hazards to the government.”  Furthermore, the prosecution maintained that at least 200 deaths and thousands of illnesses are known to be related to Grace’s mining activities.  Additionally, prosecutors alleged that Grace knew, as far back as the 1970s, that asbestos was mixed with vermiculite and that it posed a risk to their workers, yet they continued to release it into the air.

Grace Faces Stuff Penalty In Asbestos Trial

Grace has been charged with conspiracy, violating the Clean Air Act, and obstruction of justice, and faces a potential $280 million fine if found guilty.  Missoula assistant U.S. attorney Kris McLean and Kevin Cassidy of the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section are prosecuting the case.  Environmental law experts describe this case as the most significant criminal prosecution the U.S has ever filed against an alleged corporate polluter. 

Asbestos In Vermiculite

Exposure to asbestos is known to cause cancer and various other lung diseases, including mesothelioma and asbestosis (a chronically inflammatory disorder).  Studies are now being done at 28 sites in 22 states where vermiculite mined at Grace was processed or packaged.  It is believed that tens of millions of homes have some of the product in their attics or walls.  

If you or a loved one suffered injuries caused by exposure to asbestos, contact us today for a confidential and free case evaluation. Bernstein Liebhard hosts Mesothelioma Lawyer, an information resource for Mesothelioma victims.

Published November 17, 2011 by