BRICKMAKER Hanson is close to ending a damaging series of legal claims brought by the victims of asbestos-related illnesses.
Several Hanson subsidiaries in the USA are defendants in a series of lawsuits by former employees alleging injury due to exposure to products containing asbestos.
The allegations relate to employees who worked for the subsidiaries before 1984 - when Hanson was headed by Huddersfield-born businessman Lord Hanson.
Now moves are under way to end the asbestos liability claims in return for a £740m victims' compensation fund.
At the end of last year, Hanson faced about 135,750 outstanding claimants.
In February, Hanson said it had set aside more than £211.6m to cover claims.
Resolving claims in 2004 cost the group £31.3m.
However, about 80% of claims resolved last year were dismissed without payment.
The US Senate has been stuck for years on how much money insurers and business groups should put into a trust fund in exchange for victims giving up their right to sue.
However, Senate judiciary chairman Arlen Specter yesterday said he was likely to move forward soon with a compromise that could attract the support of both Democrats and Republicans.
Asbestos is a fibrous material commonly used until the mid-1970s in insulation and for fireproofing building materials.
It has tiny fibres that can cause cancer and other illnesses.