Fatal Coal Mining Accident Leads to Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Fitzsimmons Law Firm recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of a coal miner who tragically lost his life in a coal mining accident. According to the Complaint, which was filed in the Circuit Court of Marshall County, West Virginia, the plaintiff's decedent was working between the panline and the longwall face shoveling previously blasted materials from the mine floor when a large piece of coal and rock, measuring approximately 12 feet long, five feet wide, and two feet think, fell from the face, thereby striking and crushing him and pinning him underneath. The plaintiff's decedent suffered severe and fatal crush injuries as a result of the fall of face.

The plaintiffs allege that the coal company intentionally exposed its workers to unsafe working conditions by failing to properly support the roof, face, and ribs of the areas where the plaintiff's decedent and other miners were working. The Complaint further alleges that the coal company failed to properly conduct mandatory examinations of the work area after performing the initial blasting work and failed to identify and/or deliberately ignored hazardous and dangerous working conditions and, in particular, a large crack which had formed on the coal face. The Complaint also asserts that the coal company failed to develop and implement effective policies and procedures to protect miners from fall of face hazards while working on the panline and/or between the panline and the longwall face.

According to the Complaint, investigation by mining authorities revealed that the coal face where the plaintiff's decedent was working was not properly supported in that no face supports were installed. Investigation by mining authorities further revealed that the coal company had not developed or implemented proper safety procedures and protocols to protect miners from a fall of the longwall face or rib while positioned on the panline and/or between the panline and the longwall face. As a result of the incident and subject fatality, the coal company was issued a citation by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for violating 30 C.F.R. § 75.202(a) by failing to adequately support or otherwise control the longwall face and for violating 30 C.F.R. § 75.203(a) by utilizing a faulty pillar recovery mining method that created an out of seam condition thereby forcing minors to work between the panline and the longwall face.

The plaintiff asserts a "deliberate intention" cause of action against the coal company (the employer) for violating W.Va. Code § 23-4-2(d)(2)(ii). In West Virginia, an employer is generally granted immunity from negligently inflicted work related accidents. However, the employer is stripped of this immunity if it is demonstrated that the employer acted with "deliberate intention." In order to establish an employer, or coal company in this case, acted with "deliberate intention," an employee must generally prove that the employer intentionally exposed its employee to an unsafe working condition by knowingly violating a safety statute or OSHA/MSHA regulation.

The Complaint also asserts negligence claims and claims for punitive damages against the parent company of the coal operator alleging that it negligently and recklessly supervised and controlled the work being performed at the coal mine which lead to the subject incident.

The Complaint was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs and the statutory beneficiaries of the plaintiff's decedent. The Complaint seeks all damages permitted under law, including medical bills; funeral, burial, and memorial expenses; the lost wages and benefits of the decedent; lost household services of the decedent; loss of the decedent's society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices, advice, services, protection, care and assistance; and severe and extreme mental anguish and solace suffered by plaintiff's decedent's surviving family members.

The Fitzsimmons Law Firm is a plaintiff's litigation firm headquartered in Wheeling, West Virginia. For over 35 years, the Firm has successfully represented workers injured or killed on the job including claims arising from coal mining accidents, oil and gas accidents, industrial and construction accidents, and equipment and machinery accidents. The Firm has obtained over $800 Million in verdicts and settlements on behalf of its clients, including over 150 cases in excess of $1 Million.


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