Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Hawaii State Seal

State winds up
asbestos suits
with $33 million

The cancer-causing agent was
removed from 300 buildings

Richard Borreca

After eight years in court, the state has won $33.1 million in damages for asbestos materials used in state buildings.

The final settlement was announced yesterday by the state Attorney General's Office.

The settlements amounted to $63,350,000, broken down by asbestos supplier. The $33 million is what was left after attorneys' fees and other costs associated with the case, according to Deputy Attorney General Dorothy Sellers.

W.R. Grace will pay $45 million; United States Gypsum, $12 million; Kelly-Moore Paint Co., $5.8 million; Kaiser Gypsum Co., $500,000, and Highland Stucco & Lime Products Inc., $50,000.

Last year, the state and the asbestos manufacturers canceled a planned trial and entered into settlement negotiations.

Preliminary surveys had found asbestos, which is linked to cancer, in 300 state buildings.

The material was installed before a federal ban on asbestos.

Included in the troubled buildings were many schools and the state Capitol, which was closed from 1992 to 1995 for a $67 million repair and renovation project that included removing asbestos.

Asbestos has since been removed from all state schools and nearly all other state buildings, according to the Attorney General's Office.

The state closed its asbestos litigation division in 1996 and hired two private law firms to continue the lawsuits, according to Sellers.

The state hired Cronin Fried Sekiya Kekina & Fairbanks in Honolulu and Martin Dies, a private attorney.

"The proof of the case requires expert consultants, court costs, depositions, expert witnesses, and you have to prove the specific manufacturer for every square foot of building with asbestos," Sellers said.

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