More than 800 mine workers diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and other asbestos-related diseases won a significant victory last month when the Montana Supreme Court gave the green light to a lawsuit against their employer’s insurer. The mine workers had been employed by W. R. Grace & Co., and the court decided that their insurance company, which had conducted medical monitoring and been aware of the dangers their exposure to asbestos presented, had a duty to warn them of the significant health risks they faced.
Earlier Decision in Mesothelioma Case Upheld
The court’s ruling followed and supported a previous ruling by the Asbestos Claims Court, which had concluded that Maryland Casualty Company could be held liable for the damages suffered by miners diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. That lower court had written a 75-page opinion in the case that had been filed by employees of W.R. Grace & Co.’s Zonolite division.
W.R. Grace & Co. Mesothelioma Victims Say that Insurer Knew of Asbestos Risks
The employees of W.R. Grace & Company accused Maryland Casualty Company of failing to warn them of the dangers of the amphibole asbestos that they were working with, and therefore had contributed to their illness. Though the company argued that it had no duty to warn, the Asbestos Claims Court had denied their motion for summary judgment, and the company then took the decision to the state’s Supreme Court.
In reviewing the arguments made by both sides, the Montana Supreme Court judges acknowledged that the insurance company had been the exclusive provider of medical evaluations of the employees, and had actively advised the company about the risks of asbestos. Justice Dirk M. Sandefur wrote, “Regardless of whether or how Grace ultimately acted on the worker-specific medical monitoring evaluations and recommendations provided by MCC, Grace in fact relied on MCC to perform that distinct aspect of the workplace safety and risk management precautions that Grace deemed necessary to take.” He concluded that their own knowledge created a duty to warn and should have dictated their own conduct. Justice Ingrid Gustafson went further, asserting that the insurer’s failure to warn had increased their risk of harm. The case will now return to the Asbestos Claims Court, which will make a determination of liability and damages.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma following exposure to asbestos, the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net can provide you with invaluable information about how to deal with it. Contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.