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Settlement reached in W.Va. asbestos suit

Nov 22, 2005 | AP West Virginia University has reached a settlement in a class-action lawsuit affecting up to 5,600 former and current employees who may have been exposed to asbestos, the school announced Tuesday.

As part of the proposed settlement, WVU will institute and pay for a medical surveillance program to be conducted for 20 years. WVU also agreed to pay $1 million to cover potential claims and attorney fees.

A judge must approve the agreement before it becomes final. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 22.

University employees sued in 2000 and sought medical monitoring for potential asbestos-related health problems as a result of working in university buildings containing asbestos insulation.

The workers, including professors, custodians, secretaries and other staff, alleged that asbestos in campus buildings put them at an increased risk of cancer.

The university said in a statement that the agreement had been reached in the "spirit of compromise."

"WVU maintains that all standard, recognized practices for asbestos removal have been followed over the years, and that the general population of employees, through routine monitoring of buildings and air samplings, remain safe from any harmful effects of asbestos-containing materials," the university said.

Until the 1970s, asbestos was universally prized for its resistance to fire and heat. Since then, the medical community has warned that asbestos fibers, when inhaled, can cause such illnesses as mesothelioma, a rare and inoperable form of lung cancer. It also causes asbestosis, an irreversible scarring of the lungs, and other lung ailments.

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