BECKLEY, W. Va. (CN) – Sixteen coal miners injured in the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion sued the U.S. Justice Department and Massey Energy Co., under its new name, seeking to set aside the non-prosecution agreement, claiming “they are entitled to the same amount of criminal restitution that has been paid to other injured miners who were injured through the criminal acts of … Massey”.
Lead plaintiff Jason Stanley and 15 other miners injured in the April 5, 2010 disaster, filed a federal “Petition of Victims of the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster to Amend or Set Aside the Non-Prosecution Agreement Entered into Between United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia, the United States Department of Justice, Alpha Natural Resources Inc., and Alpha Appalachia Holdings Inc., Formerly known as Massey Energy Company.”
The complaint states: “(I)t is the Petitioners’ contention that, as miners injured in the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion, they are entitled to the same amount of criminal restitution that has been paid to other injured miners who were injured through the criminal acts of Alpha and Massey and/or their agents, servants or employees.”
It adds: “(I)n naming the United States Attorney’s Office as a party, it is the petitioners’ contention that the United States Attorney has done and is doing an exemplary job prosecuting those responsible for the injuries and deaths that occurred at Upper Big Branch on April 5, 2010, but that the goal of the Non-Prosecution Agreement is not being realized due to the failure of Alpha and Massey to be forthright and truthful by failing to provide full and complete information.”
The miners claim: “That in entering into the Non-Prosecution Agreement, Alpha and Massey agreed not to contest any MSHA Citation or Order. That said Citation or Orders listed several safety violations that caused death to the several miners and the injuries to the miners that are the petitioners herein.
“That Alpha and Massey have specifically paid criminal restitution to miners who were in the same mantrips as these petitioners and who suffered similar or less serious injuries than these petitioners.
“That these petitioners are entitled to the same amount of criminal restitution as their fellow miners who were injured at Upper Big Branch.”
Twenty-nine miners died in the explosion, which the plaintiffs blame on Massey’s lax safety policies. About 40 were injured, many seriously.
The plaintiff miners claim that “Alpha and Massey have paid what they consider to be criminal restitution in an arbitrary manner to approximately nine (9) of the miners who were on the mantrips, some of which suffered less significant injuries than the petitioners herein,” and that Alpha and Massey paid criminal restitution to one miner who was not even inside the mine when it exploded.
They also claim “That Alpha and Massey falsely informed the United States Attorney’s Office that there were ‘only’ two (2) injured victims or individuals affected by the UBB [Upper Big Branch] explosion.”
And they claim: “Petitioners were not made a part of the Non-Prosecution Agreement despite their injuries. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia (the ‘Office’) and the United States Department of Justice (‘DOJ’) were misled and/or defrauded by Alpha and Massey in that petitioners’ names and the nature of their injuries were not provided to the Office, nor the DOJ as part of said Non-Prosecution Agreement.
“That Alpha and Massey committed this misrepresentation and/or fraud in order to avoid paying criminal restitution to all of the injured miners.”
Their lead counsel is J. Michael Ranson, of Charleston.