3M asks Congress for help in lawsuits for masks
Associated Press, April 18, 2004
Minnesota’s biggest manufacturer is asking Congress for some help.
3-M has urged Minnesota’s two US senators to vote for legislation that would limit the Maplewood-based company’s liability by settling the nation’s present and future asbestos injury litigation.
Republican leaders plan to bring the bill to the Senate floor this week. The bill sets up an industry-financed trust fund that would pay victims 124 billion dollars over 27 years.
3-M has been awash in litigation over a mask that sold for less than a buck but was advertised as a lifesaver. Lawsuits allege that 3-M marketed its disposable respirator for more than 25 years although it was defective and exposed thousands of workers to asbestos, silica and other deadly dusts.
The company says that most of the lawsuits are groundless and that many of those filing them didn’t even use its masks. The company says it resolved 300,000 of the suits for nearly 300 million dollars.
Now the state of West Virginia is suing 3-M and two other respirator makers, seeking to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in workers’ compensation costs for more than 20-thousand coal miners it says wore the masks and got black lung disease.
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