Legal help is now available for other coal miners in the wake of an $8 million verdict won by a Kentucky miner in a black lung case with Injuryhelpdesk.com dedicating additional resources to help miners connect with mining injury lawyers.
An $8 million lawsuit won by a long-time Kentucky miner in what is believed to be the first case coal dust case lost by a U.S. respirator manufacturer probably will motivate many other miners to come forward with such legal actions, legal experts say.
The jury verdict — returned after just six hours of deliberations –came after a trial in Knott County Circuit Court, Kentucky in which Mine Safety Appliances was found liable for the victim’s pulmonary/respiratory-restrictive lung disease, more commonly known as black lung disease, or coal worker’s pneumonoconiosis.
Coal miners are well aware of this incurable disease caused through inhalation of toxic dust and characterized by shortness of breath and a cough that becomes persistent and stronger over time.
The disease most commonly is diagnosed in the mining heartland of the country, which includes Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West, Virginia, Virginia and southern Illinois.
$8 million verdict draws national attention
The success of the Kentucky miner’s case and the amount of the jury verdict have caught the attention of the major media and respected outlets such as Bloomberg News are predicting there may be many more such coal miner lawsuits filed in jurisdictions where dozens of other are pending.
“But the verdict certainly has been noticed by miners and plaintiffs’ attorneys working in coal-producing states like Kentucky and West Virginia,” Bloomberg reported. “With coal production supported by President Trump and showing a new uptick because of favorable market conditions, expect that attention to grow.”
Attorney Thomas Edward Florek, Managing Partner of Florek & Morgan, said his office is now devoting additional resources to handle claims that faulty dust masks provided by manufacturers, 3M, MSA, and AO (American Optical Corporation) caused black lung disease, otherwise known as coal worker’s pneumoconiosis, or progressive massive fibrosis, asbestos exposure, and other health issues.
Several entities, including OSHA, called for the ban of these masks in the 1970’s, but the manufacturers continued to sell them stating they met government standards. This argument was rejected by the recent jury in Kentucky.
Likewise, The Centers for Disease Control cites in a recent report the use of “continuous miner” machines, cutting rock above and below a coal seam along with the coal which the agency said “creates the potential for respirable silica exposures.”
“Coal miners work very long days in confined quarters,” said Florek. “They should trust the equipment that promises to protect them from the dust that is known to cause severe health issues. We’d like to assist in making these people as whole as possible because of others’ negligence and actions.”
How to seek financial compensation
Coal miners who are suffering from mining-related diseases or injuries may be able to seek financial compensation through Injuryhelpdesk.com, which provides references to a nationwide network of attorneys with a proven record of successful litigation.
Free consultations are available for eligible miners seeking legal representation from attorneys who specialize in such cases and have aggressively filed lawsuits based on injuries or exposure to toxic materials.
The Kentucky miner who won the $8 million award, James Couch, was 59 when he was diagnosed with black lung disease after toiling as an underground miner between 1973 and 2010.
Jurors were told that during most of his employment Couch wore various protective respirators and dust masks to prevent the inhalation of coal dust and avoid the risk of incurring black-lung disease.
The jury was told the respirators provided by Couch’s employer were defectively designed and were a major factor in causing him to develop black-lung disease and other respiratory complications.
Confidential settlements reached
In addition to Mine Safety Appliances, Couch sued three other defendant companies, all of whom reached confidential settlements with him rather than go to trial and face the financial consequences of a possible jury verdict against them.
According to testimony at his trial, Couch told jurors he used respirators for protection 80 percent of the time he worked underground.
Coal miners are facing increasing dangers from exposure to toxic dust, according to a recent report from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal agency noted numerous occurrences of “progressive massive fibrosis in Eastern Kentucky in the last few years.
The federal agency said the use of “slope mining,” “continuous miner machines” and other methods of attempting to boost coal production are contributing to the increases in black lung disease.
Legal experts say cases such as Couch’s are becoming more common as the coal-mining industry rebounds from the recent recession and highlights the necessity of experienced legal assistance.
Organizations such as Injuryhelpdesk.com are available to coal miners and their loved ones seeking legal help over claims of mining deaths, diseases and injuries but there may be legal time limits involved so officials recommend contacting them as soon as possible.
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