Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision has cleared the way for a trial date, W.R. Grace & Co. is headed to court in the company’s criminal case. The Court rejected the appeals of W.R. Grace and six of its top executives, all of whom are charged with violating the Clean Air Act. As you know, asbestos-contaminated vermiculite was released from a mine in Libby, Montana causing tremendous problems. The appeals by Grace and its executives stems from a February 2005 indictment. It was alleged that the chemical company knowingly endangered the lives of mine workers and other Libby residents. As has been widely reported, asbestos-related disease has killed an estimated 300 to 400 Libby residents – miners at W.R. Grace’s now-closed vermiculite mine, their families and others – while hundreds more suffer from fatal illnesses.
The High Court’s decision sends the case back to U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy of Missoula, and effectively strips Grace of its final chance at winning the pretrial appeals and blunting the government’s case. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case means there is nowhere else for Grace to go at the appellate level. The Defendants must now face the music. The Grace case is being called “one of the most significant cases ever brought under the federal environmental crimes program.” In its appeal to the Supreme Court, Grace argued that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s definition of asbestos doesn’t cover most of the fibers that contaminated the vermiculite in Libby. Judge Molloy agreed with Grace’s lawyers in an August 2006 decision, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned that ruling and several others. In April, after exhausting their opportunity to appeal to the Ninth Circuit, lawyers for Grace asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review and reverse the rulings.
Government prosecutors successfully opposed those efforts, asking the High Court to deny W.R. Grace’s request for a hearing, and clear the way for trial, which is now well into its second year of delays. Innocent folks were made sick and many have died as a result of the continuing exposure to the fibers. Judge Molloy’s 2006 decisions had blocked the government’s plans to bring charges of “knowing endangerment,” a violation of the federal Clean Air Act carrying possible 15-year prison terms on each of the three counts. The trial judge ruled that those charges were time-barred.
Prosecutors appealed the decision, arguing that the “knowing endangerment” charges lie at the heart of allegations that top Grace executives intentionally concealed the dangers associated with the asbestos-contaminated vermiculite mined near Libby. The Ninth Circuit reversed Judge Molloy’s decision last July, ruling that the government had acted quickly to fix the statute-of-limitations problem by submitting a superseding indictment spelling out Grace’s overt criminal acts. Among other disputed rulings by Judge Molloy, reversed by the Ninth Circuit, was an order banning certain witnesses from testifying at trial, and another that prohibited the government’s use of numerous documents, including three critical environmental health studies spelling out the hazards of asbestos.
In April, Grace agreed to pay $3 billion to those sickened or killed because of its actions in Libby. W.R. Grace also agreed earlier this year to pay the U.S. government $250 million to reimburse its investigation expenses and pay for cleanup of asbestos poisoning in Libby. The Grace story is a prime example of how some in Corporate America have no regard for the welfare of people. Hopefully, things will change after the November elections.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.