Asbestos Claims Court
In November 2017, the Montana Supreme Court created the Montana Asbestos Claims Court and appointed a district court judge in Kalispell to oversee all pre-trial proceedings for civil claims related to asbestos exposure from Lincoln County. This included the claims of over 1,855 clients who currently have civil claims filed in Montana (i.e. claims against the State, Railroad, the Lumber Mill, and Maryland Casualty.) The purpose of the Court is to facilitate resolution of all asbestos claims in Montana.
Asbestos Claims Court Orders
Below are a select few of the Orders from the Asbestos Claims Court PDFS:
2022 Robinson Settlement
Additional funds have become available for the Robinson Trust. A hearing for judicial review of the Settlement Agreement between Robinson and Farmers Insurance Exchange will be set for May 17, 2022, at 11:00 a.m., at the Flathead County Courthouse, 920 S. Main Street, Kalispell MT, 59901. Documentation on the settlement and procedures for comments are available in the documents below.
Trust Distribution procedures (TDP)
A Trust has been established to pay the claims of qualifying individuals who have been exposed to vermiculite products manufactured by Robinson Insulation. A copy of the proposed TDP can be found by clicking the link below.
Montana Supreme Court’s Opinion on the Duty of MCC
In 2020, the Montana Supreme Court reached a decision regarding the duty owed to former W.R. Grace Workers by Maryland Casualty (MCC). MCC served as the worker’s compensation insurer for Grace in the 1960s and also offered industrial hygiene consultation for Grace. The issues before the MTSC in MCC’s writ of supervisory control were whether an actor who knew others were continuously being injured, owed a duty to warn because of the actor’s own affirmative and comprehensive undertakings to address and warn of that very hazard.
In a set of majority and unanimous rulings, McGarvey Law prevailed in our advocacy, and the jury will be instructed that MCC owed a duty to warn workers of the presence and hazards of their work.
The majority opinion of Justice Gustafson recites in detail, the facts supporting this conclusion (in ¶80):
“MCC was not merely negligent in its failure to act; rather, in strategically recognizing the latency period for asbestosis to develop, MCC engaged in affirmative actions to conceal the asbestos exposure risk and worker injuries to avoid liability, effectively increasing the risk of additional harm to Mill workers from further asbestos exposure.”
The order from the Supreme Court is provided in the link below.
On October 30, McGarvey Law argued before the Montana Supreme Court about issues pertaining to claims against the Railroad.
Earlier this year, the Asbestos Claims Court held that the Railroad was strictly liable for the damage it caused during its operations hauling vermiculite. See Order re: BNSF’s Strict Liability.
BNSF appealed the decision, and our lead trial was put on hold until the Supreme Court could determine necessary legal issues. Yesterday, our firm argued that the asbestos claims Court’s ruling were correct and BNSF should not be immune from liability for their actions.
Below is a News Story on the Argument and the Full Argument before the Supreme Court.
BNSF Oral Argument from MHSL Law on Vimeo.
March 16, 2020 Update
The Montana Supreme Court recently entered a unanimous opinion in our cases against BNSF. The Montana Supreme Court affirmed the Asbestos Court by holding that “BNSF’s handling of asbestos under the facts presented here constitutes an abnormally dangerous activity for which BNSF is strictly liable.” The Montana Supreme Court also affirmed the Asbestos Court’s finding that the federal preemption does not bar claims against BNSF that BNSF cannot apportion fault or negate causation by pointing to W.R. Grace’s conduct. On the issue of whether BNSF was entitled to the common carrier exception to strict liability, the Montana Supreme Court sent the issue back to the Asbestos Court to determine which BNSF activities were “transportation of vermiculite” (for which BNSF may be negligent) and which BNSF “other activities” occurred (for which BNSF is strictly liable). The full opinion can be found here: