Prosecutors Anxiously Await Judges Decision in Asbestos Lawsuit

 

Several people sickened by asbestos from a Washington state mine continue to hope for a trial as federal appellate judges consider the future of the government’s case against mine operator, W.R. Grace & Company. Last year, a United States District Court judge decided to ban federal prosecutors’ use of documents, studies and testimony by expert witnesses, and this decision derailed efforts to bring the mine and seven of its former and current senior executives and managers to trial last year.

Allegedly, the Grace company and its officials knew about devastating health effects tied to asbestos exposure but concealed this information; consequently, many residents in the mining town of Libby, Washington are dying or have already died from mesothelioma, asbestosis and other asbestos-related disease. The charges against the company and the officials include criminal conspiracy and knowing endangerment.

Assistant United States Attorney Kris McClean of Montana and Todd Aagaard from the Justice Department said the judge’s rulings forbid the government from presenting information drawn from Grace’s own asbestos testing. The judge also forbids the results of a government study that found more than 1,300 of 7,000 Libby residents tested had lunch abnormalities consistent with asbestos-related disease.

On June 4, 2007, federal lawyers asked the 9th Circuit to overturn Judge Molloy’s rulings and are awaiting the court’s decision on whether or not the trial will move forward.