The Grace Company, which operated the chrysotile asbestos mines in Libby, Montana for decades, filed for Chapter 11 reorganization back in 2001 to protect itself from more than 100,000 personal injury claims. They manufactured a product called Zonolite Vermiculite Concrete. Over one decade later, the victims of asbestos exposure continue to wait for the opportunity to seek compensation.
While under bankruptcy protection, WR Grace has continued to buy and sell assets. Despite its, recent failure to acquire additional assets at a secret auction and Although it has required approval from the bankruptcy courts for each transaction, The company still operates on a grand scale; maintaining operations in 40 countries with an estimated 6,000 employees and $2.5 billion in annual sales.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Judith Fitzgerald in Wilmington OK’d Columbia-based Grace’s reorganization plan. The company said its plan involves establishing a pair of trusts to compensate personal injury claimants and property owners in connection with their asbestos-related claims against Grace. In order for Grace to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection, however, its plan also needs the approval U.S. District Court Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Buckwalter is hearing the personal injury and property claims against the company.
Grace no longer manufactures asbestos containing products and the asbestos mines in Libby have been closed since 1990. Grace now makes specialty chemicals used in catalytic converters and construction products. Its stock has jumped 76 percent in the past year largely due to strong emerging market sales. However, cases of asbestos-related illnesses continue to haunt the town because It can take anywhere from 10-50 years after the exposure to asbestos fibers for an asbestos related condition such as mesothelioma cancer to show obvious symptoms.
“We recognize that there are a few more steps in the legal process, which we hope will move forward expeditiously,” said Chairman, President, and CEO Fred Festa. “I look forward to Grace emerging from Chapter 11 as a vibrant, growing company with a great future.” Should it win final approval to leave protection, Grace Company said it plans to pay creditors in full and set up a trust fund to pay victims of asbestos-related diseases. THAT remains to be seen.
Settlement Agreement Resolving The United States Proofs of Claim Resolving Certain Environmental Matters
Financial Reorganization plan of WR Grace
The Grace Company