Former Libby, Montana worker wins $36.5 million in asbestos case

Mr. Hutt worked for WR Grace for 18 months in 1968 and 1969 and was diagnosed with asbestosis in 2002. When he went to work there in the ...


Mr. Hutt worked for WR Grace for 18 months in 1968 and 1969 and was diagnosed with asbestosis in 2002. When he went to work there in the dry mill at the age of 27, he he said in his deposition, his boss handed him “a broom and a snow shovel and put him to work sweeping. The workers weren’t wearing masks, he said, because they were clogged up too quickly.

At least 400 deaths have been documented from asbestos-related causes in Libby and more than 2,400 people have been diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases at the Center for Asbestos Related Disease clinic set up to treat residents of the town .

The contamination affected much more than the workers. The U.S. government called it in 2009 “the worst case of industrial poisoning of an entire community in American history.”

WR Grace began mining a deposit of vermiculite on a wooded peak called Zonolite Mountain near Libby in the 1960s. The relatively harmless mineral, known commercially as Zonolite, has been used in attic insulation up to the 1980s. But a naturally occurring type of deadly asbestos has been found in the same deposit.

The mine produced seven to nine tons of dust per day for 10 years during the time that Maryland Casualty was part of operations, and asbestos sometimes made up 60 to 80 percent of the airborne dust. Not only was dust floating all over the mine and plant, but toxic levels filled the air in much of the small town.

WR Grace and Maryland Casualty hid this fact from the workers, according to the lawsuit. In 1990 the mine closed. The disease, however, continued to spread.

Few outside of Libby knew what was going on until 1998, when a resident named Gayla Benefield sued WR Grace after her mother, Margaret Vatland, died of what residents of the community called asbestosis. ‘takeaway’ – his father, Perley Vatland, had brought asbestos home on his work clothes and contaminated his wife and children, including Mrs Benefield. “The miners went to work at the mine and came back dusty,” Ms Benefield said in an interview. “It was a badge of honor.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Former Libby, Montana worker wins $36.5 million in asbestos case
Former Libby, Montana worker wins $36.5 million in asbestos case
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