Before closing, asbestos trust donates to Libby’s Food Pantry and Senior Center

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A trust set up in 2012 to help provide medical benefits to people diagnosed with asbestos-related disease has been exhausted — but not before it could also help two local organizations in time for Christmas.

The Libby Medical Plan Trust has paid over $13 million dollars to over 2,224 beneficiaries over the past five years, helping them pay “for insurance coverage for medical expenses for a disease that was caused by no fault of their own,” Roger Sullivan, an attorney for McGarvey, Heberling, Sullivan & Lacey, a Kalispell law firm that helped develop and administer the Trust, states in a news release.

After making final payouts to 2,010 beneficiaries in 2016, the Trust was left with a balance of $7,630.84, according to attorney Dustin Leftridge. Its advisory committee — LeRoy Thom, Dave Stephenson and Gayla Benefield — suggested the Trust donate the balance to Libby Food Pantry and Libby Senior Citizens Center. With approval by District Court Judge Matt Cuffe, the Trust was closed and the final amount was split 50/50 between the organizations, Leftridge said via email.

Leftridge said the Trust was for people diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease that worked at W.R. Grace, were the spouse or dependent of a worker, or lived within 20 miles of the mine and had done so for 12 consecutive months before Jan. 1, 2000.

During W.R. Grace bankruptcy proceedings, Leftridge’s firm represented Libby claimants.

“As part of the Bankruptcy settlement, the law firms were able to secure two major provisions on behalf of the Libby claimants,” he wrote. “First was a provision in the Bankruptcy Trust Distribution Procedures that allow special treatment of folks from Libby, allowing them to potentially receive up to eight times the scheduled amount from the Personal Injury Trust. Second, we were able to secure a lump sum for medical payments that resulted in the Libby Medical Plan Trust.”

Leftridge said that $19.5 million was deposited into the Trust, and beneficiaries were paid twice a year to supplement their health coverage.

“The Trust was set up to provide benefits as long as funds remained,” Leftridge wrote. Though the Libby Medical Plan Trust has been closed, the Personal Injury Trust is currently accepting claims.

“For those diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease due to asbestos exposure in Lincoln County before Feb. 18, 2015, the deadline to file a claim ... is Feb. 28, 2018,” the news release states.

Leftridge said potential claimants can call McGarvey, Heberling, Sullivan & Lacey at 406-752-5566 to learn more.

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