BILLINGS — More than 1,100 victims of asbestos contamination are nearing a $43 million settlement over claims that Montana health officials failed to warn miners about the hazards of a deadly vermiculite mine, documents from the case show.
Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands sickened following decades of exposure to asbestos from the now-shuttered W.R. Grace & Co. mine in the small northwestern Montana town of Libby.
Claimant notices obtained by The Associated Press show at least 1,125 victims are considering a deal that calls for payments ranging from $21,500 to the $60,700, depending on the severity of sickness.
Terms of the deal were first reported by the Daily Inter Lake.
In 2004, the Montana Supreme Court said the state should have warned miners about hazards first identified by state officials in Libby in the 1950s. Attorneys for the state and victims have since been negotiating terms of a monetary settlement under which state agencies would be released from future liability.
Attorney Tom Lewis, whose Great Falls firm represents some of the victims, said Tuesday he could not comment on the settlement.
"The people of Libby have been waiting a long time. We've been working on this case a long time," Lewis said. "I can't comment on ongoing litigation because it's not ethical for me to do so."
The mine closed in 1999, and more than $300 million has been spent on a cleanup expected to go on for years.
Grace escaped most liability when it filed for bankruptcy after the extent of contamination was revealed.