The lone survivor of the Sago Mine disaster and the families of two victims filed lawsuits on Wednesday against mine owner International Coal Group and five other companies.
All three lawsuits accuse ICG and subsidiary Wolf Run Mining of negligence in the operation of the mine. The lawsuits allege that the companies' failure to provide safe working conditions led the the Jan. 2 explosion.
The lawsuits also accuse Burrell Mining Products Inc., Raleigh Mine and Industrial Supply Inc., GMS Mine Repair and CSE Corp. of negligence for failing to provide proper safety equipment.
Twelve men died in the blast and prolonged entrapment at the coal mine near Buckhannon, while survivor Randal McCloy Jr. was severely injured.
The lawsuits were filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court by McCloy and his wife, Anna; Judy Bennett, widow of miner Alva Martin Bennett; and Lily Bennett, widow of miner James Bennett.
Each lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. The lawsuits filed by the Bennett families also seek an injunction to force ICG and Wolf Run to implement the recommendations of an independent investigation commissioned by Gov. Joe Manchin.
Miners’ federal suit dismissed
A federal judge in Washington on Wednesday threw out a lawsuit by coal miners demanding that the government do more to ensure miners have working oxygen supplies and know how to use them.
The lawsuit was filed in June after Congress overhauled mine safety rules in response to the Sago disaster.
The United Mine Workers of America had sought to force the Mine Safety and Health Administration to conduct periodic checks of oxygen units and conduct emergency training for all underground coal miners.
But U.S. District Judge John D. Bates said the lawsuit didn't meet the legal requirements to force a court order.
"The loss of lives, and the risks miners presently face, weigh heavily in public discourse and are taken seriously by this court," Bates wrote. "But the tragedy of those events, and the need for greater protection described by plaintiff, cannot substitute for the requirements of the law."