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February 28, 2012
Libby, Montana - The National Indemnity Company hopes to recover about $16 million that was part of a financial settlement for victims of asbestos exposure from the W.R. Grace and Company Libby, Montana Superfund site, it announced late last week.
According to an Associated Press article, the Omaha, Nebraska-based insurance company paid into the settlement under “a 2005 agreement that reserved the company's right to seek future recovery of the money.” National Indemnity is now claiming that the State of Montana did not properly notify them about the lawsuits pertaining to asbestos exposure at the Libby site, and also maintains that outside counsel for the state failed to notify the insurer that they would indeed fight the claims.
The State of Montana has been sued by more than 1,000 asbestos victims who claim that the state knew for several decades about the asbestos-tainted vermiculite at the Libby mines of W.R. Grace and Company and the fact that it was making both workers and members of the community sick. Despite that knowledge, claimants say, the state did nothing.
National Indemnity was made to pay the settlement because of a comprehensive general liability policy that was effective from July 1973 to July 1975. The money from the settlement went into a trust fund used to pay victims. Also included in the trust is $26.8 million from the state's self-insurance reserve fund and $100,000 from the Montana Insurance Guaranty Association. Since the trust was not named in the lawsuit, it should not be affected by this legal action, the article notes.
The trust has already assisted hundreds of local Libby, Montana residents and former W.R. Grace employees whose lives have been altered by asbestos exposure and the development of serious asbestos-related diseases, including malignant mesothelioma. As a matter of fact, more than 60 percent of the claimants in the Libby settlement - 764 people - have already received settlement checks, says Nancy Gibson, an attorney who is overseeing the trust.
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