6 Min Read
Last Updated: 05/02/2024
Fact Checked

Quick Facts About Barretts Minerals
  • wavy circle icon with check mark inside
    Founded:
    1992
  • calendar icon
    Years Operated:
    1992-Present (as Minerals Technologies Inc.)
  • gray building icon
    Headquarters:
    Dillon, MT
  • businessman icon standing next to a globe
    Business:
    Talc mining, nonmetallic mining mineral mining and quarrying
  • icon of a building with a dollar sign on it
    Asbestos Trust:
    No
  • downward arrow with blocks representing cash
    Bankruptcy Status:
    Filed

Barretts Minerals’ History With Talc and Asbestos

Barretts Minerals Inc. is a talc plant established in 1992 that operates in Dillon, Montana, under its parent company Minerals Technologies Inc. Pfizer previously owned the company. Mineral Technologies announced in June 2023 that Barretts Minerals will exit the talc business.

The company mines talc from the Regal and Treasure mines located in the Ruby Mountains, then transports it 8 miles to the plant for processing and shipment via the railroad. Talc is a mineral commonly used as a coating for gums and oral tablets. It’s also used in cosmetics, body powders, plastics, paints and ceramics, including ceramics of automotive catalytic converters. 

Despite its usefulness, asbestos exposure is a concern because talc and asbestos develop under similar conditions. Talc is mined from the earth, and most talc deposits naturally contain asbestos. Asbestos is a carcinogen that causes mesothelioma and other cancers. The talc processing procedure, which involves crushing, grinding and drying, can further expose workers to asbestos fibers.  

Barretts Minerals’ Products & Workers at Risk

The process of mining, processing and shipping talc created many occupations with a high risk of asbestos exposure. Employees exposed to contaminated talc and to the products made from this talc began to develop symptoms of diseases associated with asbestos, including mesothelioma.

Occupations at High Risk
  • Contractors
  • Factory workers
  • Machinery operators
  • Mechanics
  • Miners
  • Railroad workers
  • Road construction workers
  • Warehouse workers

Workers aren’t the only population at risk. Consumers who purchased products made with Barretts Minerals talc also reported injuries. While the company stopped selling talc for use in cosmetics, many other products contain the material. Barretts currently has more than 500 lawsuits pending against it. 

Asbestos Lawsuits Involving Barretts Minerals

Lawsuits against Barretts Minerals claim personal injuries from exposure to asbestos-contaminated talcum powder. Plaintiffs named Barretts Minerals and other asbestos companies in multiple pending lawsuits citing exposure from asbestos-containing talc and other products.

Lawsuits Against Barretts Minerals
  • Klick et al v. Asbestos Corporation LTD. et al: Paul and Julie Klick filed an asbestos lawsuit on November 19, 2020, and named Barretts Minerals among other defendants. The case was transferred to state court on February 2, 2022.
  • Rathbun et al v. Barretts Minerals Inc. et al: Gwendolyn and John Edwin Rathbun filed an asbestos personal injury suit against Barretts Minerals on September 3, 2021. The suit claims that John Edwin Rathbun developed mesothelioma after exposure from handling asbestos-containing products and asbestos fibers.
  • Ongoing Tort Action: Despite Barretts Minerals’ bankruptcy case, some claimants have successfully appealed a Texas federal bankruptcy court to allow two claims to proceed forward. These claims involve testing talc for the presence of asbestos.

Most plaintiff claims report asbestos exposure through employment at the mine or plant or from products containing asbestos. In the case of Barretts Minerals, the claimants allege the talc contained asbestos, and they suffered serious health consequences because of the contamination. 

Mineral Technologies released multiple statements claiming the lawsuits have no merit, and that its products are safe and thoroughly tested for asbestos. Despite these assurances and intent to continue operations, Barretts announced its decision to sell the company, file for bankruptcy and create an asbestos trust fund to resolve its liabilities.

Barretts Minerals Files for Bankruptcy

Barretts Minerals filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on October 2, 2023, and the case is pending in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas. The case has a general bar date of May 6, 2024, which is the deadline for any individual or entity to file proof of a claim. 

The company chose to file bankruptcy as a way to resolve the increasing financial liabilities from hundreds of personal injury lawsuits. Workers and consumers claim they were exposed to asbestos-contaminated talc through product processing and use.

Barretts Minerals intends to sell its assets, but some of the company’s creditors are attempting to stop the sale, believing it will lead to continued asbestos exposure. Creditors wanted the bankruptcy case moved from Texas to the company’s base state of Montana, stating that filing in Texas was an effort to avoid liability. However, Judge Marvin Isgur blocked the transfer because Texas is the location of one of Barretts Minerals’ principal assets. 

Barretts Minerals Possibly Establishing Asbestos Trust Fund 

Barretts Minerals is in the middle of a bankruptcy case. The company hopes the sale of the company will generate enough proceeds to create a Barretts Minerals asbestos trust fund. This would provide compensation to claimants diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases as a result of exposure to asbestos via Barretts Minerals’ contaminated talc. 

The company auctioned off its assets and reported in mid-March 2024 that Riverspan Partners won with an offer of $32 million. The amount intended to fund the trust has not been established. 

Although the details of the potential trust fund remain unknown, it’s likely to operate similarly to other trust funds established to pay plaintiffs in mesothelioma cases. These trusts set aside large amounts of money to compensate current and future claimants who qualify. 

Most trusts operate on a first-come, first-served basis, providing payment amounts based on the type and severity of the claimant’s disease. The volume of potential claims also affects the payouts because the trust may cap compensation at a certain percentage to maintain funds. 

Who Will Be Eligible?

Individuals or their surviving family members who have a diagnosis of mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease may be eligible to file a compensation claim. All claimants must provide documentation to prove their diagnosis, and the source of the asbestos exposure that caused the disease. An asbestos lawyer can help prepare the correct evidence to pursue a claim. 

While the formation of a trust fund is still in the early days, potential claimants should seek assistance now. Finding a lawyer specializing in asbestos cases helps claimants get the compensation they deserve. The right legal expert can prepare the case so it’s ready when the time to file arrives.

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