Canadian Lawyers Real Winners in W.R. Grace Dispute

Settling out of court might have sounded like a profitable idea for Canadian homeowners whose properties were contaminated by Zonolite (an insulation product containing asbestos ), but it appears that the homeowners will not reap the benefits for which they hoped. Instead, fees paid to their attorneys will render their earnings nil. The asbestos in the Zonolite insulation has been linked to the development of various deadly lung illnesses such as asbestosis and mesothelioma in those who breathe in the dust or fibers. These diseases do not appear for many decades following exposure, so the total number of deaths resulting from homes with Zonolite has yet to be determined. W.R. Grace previously set aside $6.5 million during bankruptcy proceedings to cover Zonolite-related claims previously made against the company and any which might ensue in the future. Unfortunately for homeowners, lawyers filing the claims would receive almost half of the money. Should every Canadian with Zonolite in their homes file a claim, their earnings would be just over $8 (Canadian) each.

The cost of asbestos insulation removal can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, and the $8 (Canadian) homeowners might receive would barely cover the cost of postage for the paperwork. Since not all homeowners with Zonolite in their homes are expected to file, anticipated earnings for those filing will be between $300 and $600. According to the bankruptcy filings, though, Grace would never be required to offer more money, and the lawyers have not offered to reduce their fees to give the plaintiffs a larger share. Even though the settlement has yet to be approved in either the United States or Canada, the low level of payment to homeowners concerns many. The proposed breakdown of the $6.5 million is for $2.25 million to go to the attorneys who file the paperwork. $850,000 to be paid to a claims administrator, up to $150,000 for an expert consultant, and whatever funds are left will be paid to those whose lives have been affected by having the toxin in their homes.