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Critical Mine Report Could Lead to More Wrongful Death Lawsuits

The number of wrongful death lawsuits brought against the owners of a West Virginia (WV) mine more than a year after an explosion that killed 29 miners has climbed to 13. Now legal experts say the number of wrongful death claims could increase further, in the wake of this week's critical independent report into the safety record of the mine owners, Massey Energy Company, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

A report by J. Davitt McAteer, a former federal mine regulator, criticized Massey for "frequently and knowingly violating the law and blatantly disregarding known safety practices," including failing to deal with explosive coal dust present in the mine, according to the newspaper. Families of the dead miners are suing under West Virginia's wrongful death statute. The relevant provisions mandate a showing that an employer acted with "deliberate intention" by knowingly and intentionally exposing a worker to unsafe conditions that led to death.

"This report would go a long way to helping the plaintiffs establish deliberate intent," Robert Bastress, a law professor at West Virginia University in Morgantown, told the Journal.
More than a year ago the deadly explosion blasted through more than two miles of the West Virginia (WV) mine. It was the most serious U.S. coal mining accident in 40 years in terms of number of people killed, and it led to moves to improve federal mine-safety laws.

In April our experienced VA wrongful death attorneys detailed how 10 lawsuits had been brought in the wake of this terrible tragedy. The families in the West Virginia wrongful death lawsuits claim the Upper Big Branch Mine was run in a reckless and unsafe manner. It makes claims there were violations of federal regulation criminal negligence, and possibly even bribery of regulators.

Notwithstanding the seriousness of the allegations the current Massey chairman has described the tragedy as a "natural disaster." The McAteer report is likely to pile the pressure on the company and lead to more WV wrongful death lawsuits. Legal experts also said the report could even make it more difficult for Massey to reach settlements with families who have yet to sue.

Massey said eight families will accept $3 million settlements. That would leave a further eight who have not filed a lawsuit nor agreed to settle.

As experienced Virginia personal injury and wrongful death attorneys we have fought many cases linked to workplace safety. We recently won an $8.6 million jury verdict on behalf of a railroad worker who died of lung cancer after being exposed to carcinogens on the job.


Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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