We’ve talked about W.R. Grace & Company/Western Mineral before. It was a company that mined and sold asbestos-containing vermiculite for use in gardening and for insulation. According to reports, about 92% of all long-term workers at the company have developed mesothelioma or asbestos lung cancer.
As we discussed recently, the company and its workers’ comp insurer hid the danger from workers even after it was well-established that asbestos causes deadly cancers. A jury found that the workers’ comp insurer violated its duty when it conspired with W.R. Grace to prevent workers from making their rightful compensation claims.
That jury awarded a single worker $36.5 million in compensation for his illness and losses. More than 2,400 people in W.R. Grace’s hometown of Libby, Montana, have been diagnosed with asbestos illnesses, including mesothelioma and lung cancer.
New lawsuit says insurance company still won’t pay claims
Now, former W.R. Grace/Western Mineral workers have a new problem on their hands. The workers’ compensation insurer that conspired with the company to hide the asbestos problem was later bought out by Zurich American Insurance, which now has to pay for the original insurer’s wrongdoing.
However, even after that jury awarded a worker $36.5 million, Zurich American Insurance – part of insurance giant Zurich Insurance Group – still won’t pay the other workers’ claims.
“Despite repeated requests for reasonable settlement of the accrued claims, Zurich has not made a reasonable offer to the plaintiffs, collectively or individually, and has made no attempt whatsoever to settle the accrued claims of the plaintiffs in the worker group,” reads a new lawsuit filed by some of the workers.
Why is Zurich refusing to make reasonable settlement offers? According to the lawsuit, it’s because Zurich sold some of the asbestos claims to investors who make more money as the claims continue to be delayed.
“They are making huge amounts of money on the money that should be paid to claimants,” the workers’ lawyer told reporters. “They are literally investing in human suffering.”
Zurich American Insurance has not commented on the lawsuit.
The fight for just compensation is ongoing in asbestos cases
Here in Minnesota, vermiculite from W.R. Grace/Western Mineral has caused great harm. Moreover, our state is filled with job sites where asbestos exposure was common even after the dangers were well known. Untold numbers of workers from these sites may have been harmed. Since mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer can take decades to develop, some of those exposed to asbestos are only now being diagnosed with these deadly illnesses.