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ExxonMobil Settles Asbestos Case

October 10, 2002

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ ExxonMobil has agreed to settle asbestos claims against it, leaving Union Carbide the lone defendant in what was a mass trial of asbestos claims here.

Terms of the settlement, reached late Tuesday, were not disclosed.

A message left with ExxonMobil was not returned Thursday.

The case being heard in Kanawha Circuit Court once involved nearly 8,000 claims against more than 250 corporations. Settlements whittled down the defendants to three _ Union Carbide, which is now owned by Dow Chemical; Mobil, now ExxonMobil; and Amchem, which was dismissed from the case Tuesday.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear arguments that the trial is unconstitutional. ExxonMobil and several other companies said the trial should not begin, but that request also was refused.

Attorneys for Union Carbide said settlement talks will continue.

Until the 1970s, asbestos was universally prized for its resistance to fire and heat. When inhaled, asbestos fibers cause such illnesses as mesothelioma, a rare and inoperable form of lung cancer. It also causes asbestosis, an irreversible scarring of the lungs, and other lung ailments.

Pipefitters and similar workers allege they were exposed to dangerous asbestos fibers when they installed fireproofing and insulation at operations owned by Union Carbide. Carbide also manufactured asbestos products during the 1960s and mined a form of asbestos it named Calidria, selling it in bulk from 1964 to 1985.

Jurors will be asked to determine if Union Carbide is liable for making workers sick. A later trial with a new jury will determine if any damages should be awarded.

With a past rooted in railroads, steel and heavy industry, West Virginia has been deluged with asbestos claims since the early 1980s. The state’s courts have developed a Mass Litigation Panel system to handle the cases, funneling them to a handful of judges who specialize in this area of the law.

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