Federal Jury Acquits W.R. Grace in Asbestos Case

A federal jury in Montana acquitted W.R. Grace & Co. and three of its executives in early May 2009 on all counts in a long-running asbestos environmental case that grew out of the company’s operation of a vermiculite mine at Libby, Montana, from 1963 to 1990. The case had been brought by the U.S. Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. attorney for the district of Montana. The prosecution failed to convince the jury that Grace and its executives knowingly endangered the lives of mine workers and Libby residents.

Tom Frongillo, a lawyer for one of the Grace executives, told Reuters, “The knowing endangerment crime is almost tantamount to a murder charge. It’s really a heinous charge. We believe that there was extraordinary overreaching by the government.” Frongillo also said that the asbestos contamination at Libby was a civil matter that had been addressed by a governmentled cleanup effort years ago.

The EPA began removing asbestos contamination at Libby in 2000, and Grace filed for bankruptcy protection from cleanup costs in 2001. The EPA filed to recover costs in 2003, and Grace agreed to pay $250 million in March 2008.

As featured in Womp 2009 Vol 05 - www.womp-int.com