W.R. Grace, a specialty chemicals manufacturer, will settle a class-action lawsuit, to the tune of $140 million.
In a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company stated that it will pay $30 million into a trust, another $30 million after three years and additional payments for ten years in the amount of $8 million each year.
Hundreds of thousands of lawsuits were filed against the company for its distribution of a product called Zonolite, a loose-fill attic insulation product that was used in homes in both the U.S. and Canada. The product was made of vermiculite, a naturally occurring substance that can contain asbestos fibers. The lawsuits caused W.R. Grace to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection seven years ago.
The vermiculite used to produce Zonolite was mined in the small town of Libby, Montana. The mine operated for 70 years but was shut down in 1990. The work done at the mine has been connected to the asbestos exposure that sickened thousands of people in the local area and killed more than 200.
In 1999 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began a clean-up operation of the Libby mine. The operation was paid for by the government’s Superfund program.
The small community was brought into the forefront this year when a PBS documentary based on the town’s experience was nominated for an Emmy award. The company was highlighted as well.
W.R. Grace has now been able to emerge from bankruptcy as all claims against it have been settled. The company’s stock prices have hit hard times and are currently trading at $3.50 per share up only slightly from the all-time low of $2.95. The highest price paid in the past was over $30.00.