Montana Court Approves Key Asbestos Deal – Vermiculite Exposures

Asher TobinMining, Press Release

Small pieces of the mineral vermiculite in a pile

(MarketWatch) Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s National Indemnity Co. has to pay more than $43 million of Montana’s asbestos-related settlement costs, a state judge has ruled.

Montana had reached a $43 million settlement in 2009 with people injured by asbestos at a vermiculite mining operation in Libby, Mont. The victims claimed the state had knowledge of unsafe conditions at the mine for decades and failed to protect workers.

National Indemnity BRK.A, -0.71% BRK.B, -0.38%  provided general liability insurance to the state between 1973 and 1975. It argued those insurance policies didn’t cover the asbestos-related claims.

Judge Holly Brown said in a state district court ruling on March 1 that National Indemnity breached its duty to defend the state from lawsuits related to the Libby mine.

Berkshire, a conglomerate run by billionaire Warren Buffett, has taken on growing responsibility for asbestos-related insurance claims in recent years. Insurers including Liberty Mutual and American International Group Inc. AIG, +0.78%   have paid Berkshire billions of dollars to take responsibility for future asbestos claims tied to past policies, in an arrangement known as retroactive reinsurance.

An expanded version of this report appears at

See another article related to the case at Reuters