On May 8, 2009, W.R. Grace & Co. and three of the chemical company's former executives were acquitted of all charges in the largest, most agressive environmental prosecution ever mounted by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency. The two-and-a-half month trial capped a massive five-year effort to obtain "justice" for the town of Libby, Montana. According to the government, a rogue company intent on putting profits ahead of safety had for decades knowingly exposed the townspeople of Libby to asbestos from a vermiculite mining operation dating back to the 1920s. Grace and its executives had allegedly kept the dangers of "Libby asbestos" esposure a secret from everyone, including the government, for 30 years. The result, according to the Justice Department, was several hundred deaths and thousands of illnesses.
Prosecuting Grace and its executives was supposedly one more way to make amends for an apparent tragedy at Libby, even after years of civil litigation and tens of thousands of individual lawsuits against the company, and hundreds of millions of dollars paid in settlements with the EPA. But the problem -- as the defendants argued at trial -- was that there was no secret at all.
This article appeared in "Litigation 2009," a supplement to The American Lawyer & Corporate Counsel, and was co-authored with David S. Krakoff and Gary A. Winters.
Firefox recommends the PDF Plugin for Mac OS X for viewing PDF documents in your browser.
We can also show you Legal Updates using the Google Viewer; however, you will need to be logged into Google Docs to view them.
Please choose one of the above to proceed!
LOADING PDF: If there are any problems, click here to download the file.
Environmental Law Updates, Products Liability Updates, Toxic Torts Updates
DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.
© Lauren Randell, BuckleySandler LLP | Attorney Advertising