Montana asbestos victims object to attorneys' fees

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BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Victims of asbestos exposure in northwestern Montana have asked a state judge to deny $4 million in fees and costs requested by attorneys in a legal settlement with chemical company W.R. Grace and Co.

In letters submitted to state District Court Judge James Wheelis, about 20 people, including victims, said the money should instead be spent on medical care for those sickened by asbestos dust from a Grace mine near Libby.

Three letter writers supported the attorneys' fee request.

Court officials said Monday that a ruling from Wheelis is pending after a two-week comment period expired.

The requested fees equal 20 percent of last year's $19.6 million settlement with Grace over decades of asbestos exposure that has killed an estimated 400 people and sickened more than 2,000.

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