Upper Big Branch Miner's MemorialA lawsuit seeking $1.5 million filed by the estates of three miners killed in the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine has been dismissed. The lawsuit sought $1.5 million for each of the estates, arguing Alpha Natural Resources, which purchased Massey Energy in 2011, owed the amount to them.
The lawsuit, filed in July, was dismissed Oct. 31 by U.S. District Judge Irene Berger, of the Southern District of West Virginia. The docket shows several entries that were sealed during the case’s three months. Berger, in a sealed memorandum opinion, granted Alpha’s motion to dismiss, filed in August under seal.
The estates of Grover Skeens, Charles T. Davis and Cory Davis filed a lawsuit in July against Alpha, which purchased Massey after the 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners. The lawsuit states that as a result of a non-prosecution agreement signed by Alpha in December 2011, it agreed to pay $1.5 million to each of the families of the miners killed. It alleges that 11 families have not been paid, and that funds recovered in wrongful death lawsuits should not count toward that $1.5 million figure. The attorneys representing the plaintiffs were J. Michael Ranson and Cynthia Ranson of Ranson Law Offices and G. Patrick Jacobs of Jacobs Law Office, both of Charleston.
“An agreement to make voluntary restitution payments to families to avoid criminal prosecution is not the same as payments pursuant to a wrongful death claim in which monies may be paid to non-family members,” the complaint says.
“As further proof, Plaintiffs state that one group of fallen family members were paid the publically announced $1,500,000.00 in excess of whatever monies were paid to resolve wrongful death claims while a second group, including the plaintiffs, has not received said restitution payment.”
At issue is Appendix C of the non-prosecution agreement, which states “$16,500,000.00 was previously or anticipated to be paid as part of settlements with the families of eleven of the fallen miners in the actions.” Monies paid for wrongful death settlements were not paid to “families” but instead to individuals having claims under the West Virginia Wrongful Death statute, the complaint said. The settling parties in the wrongful death claims did not include Alpha, it added.