How a 2010 Mining Disaster That Killed 29 Miners Has Implications on Workplace Safety Everywhere
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on March 2nd, 2012
If you are seriously injured on the job, it can have devastating effects on your family, your future health and your livelihood.
Workplace injuries can happen anywhere, from factory floors to trucking fleets to maritime shipping injuries, to offices and even in retail stores and malls.
So what do you do if you are hurt while at work?
Get immediate medical treatment and talk to a qualified, experienced and compassionate attorney who will listen to your case and be your advocate to fight for your legal rights and financial future.
On-the-job injuries can range from back injuries to limb amputations, paralysis, falls, bone breaks and even death. Finding an attorney who knows about severe injuries and who can best represent your case is one of the most important steps you can take in fighting your legal battle regarding your ongoing health.
Such was the case in the horrific 2010 coal mining accident in the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, West Virginia, where 29 miners were killed and at least seven others were seriously injured in the worst mining disaster in the U.S. in some 40 years.
Earlier this week, a former security officer for the mining company, Hughie Elbert Stover, 60, was sentenced to three years in prison “for lying to investigators and trying to destroy documents” related to the incident, according to a story in The Charleston (W.V.) Gazette. Investigators determined that company officials failed to properly maintain procedures and equipment that was meant to keep mine workers safe deep in the earth, according to the story.
“Criminal prosecutions in workplace safety cases are relatively rare, and jail sentences following mine safety convictions — especially multi-year ones — are even more unusual, government records show,” the paper reported.
But in this case, the crimes were clear and well-documented, according to prosecutors. “Stover is the second person convicted in what government officials have described as a massive and widespread criminal probe of Upper Big Branch and of potential criminal violations at other Massey [Energy Co.] operations,” the paper reported.
According to the investigation, mining company managers would give prior notice of impending government safety inspections so that safety problems could be temporarily fixed before inspectors arrived, the story reported.
In January, the final case settlements were reached between the mining company and the families of the miners who were killed or injured in the mine explosion at Upper Big Branch, according to a story in USA Today. Most of the families sued for wrongful death damages after the accident, according to the story. The amount of the settlements was not released by any of the parties. The settlements were being paid by Alpha Natural Resources, a Virginia company that bought the former Massey Energy Co. last June. The Alpha purchase included the mine and the lawsuits that had been filed after the accident, the story reported.
The surviving families of the dead miners were each offered $3 million settlements shortly after the accident, but most refused and chose to file wrongful death lawsuits, the story reported.
The company also reached a $210 million settlement late last year with the U.S. Department of Justice in the case, including $46.5 million in restitution to the families and some of the survivors of the accident, the story reported.
The investigations into the blast ultimately found that “Massey allowed highly explosive methane gas and coal dust to accumulate at Upper Big Branch, and that worn and broken cutting equipment created the spark that ignited the fuel,” USA Today reported. “Broken and clogged water sprayers allowed a mere flare-up to turn into an inferno that ripped through miles of underground tunnels and killed men instantly.”
The tragedy that took 29 lives at the Upper Big Branch Mine could have been avoided had the company not gambled with the lives of its employees that day. That is often the case in many incidents of workplace injuries, no matter where people are doing their jobs.
Yes, most of us are not involved in mining accidents deep in the earth, but this case is indicative of what happens when employers stop caring about the health, safety and well-being of their employees and their families.
And that’s why it’s important to know your legal rights and the responsibilities of your employer for your safety in the workplace. To find out about those rights, it’s best to talk to a lawyer.
If you or someone you love is seriously injured on the job, be sure to get the best legal advice and help that you can find.
Talk to a legal team that has your best interests at heart and that cares about you as a client and as a person who has been seriously injured who needs help.
We here at MyPhillyLawyer handle workplace injury and personal injury cases every day with compassion, caring, professionalism and decades of legal experience.
If you are hurt, call us and set up a free initial consultation. We are here to serve you in any way we can to ensure that your rights are upheld and that your future is made secure while your injuries heal.
When Winning Matters Most, call MyPhillyLawyer.