Corporate mine owners hoped that the week’s early media attention to a major mine accident lawsuit would fade with celebrity fanfare and rock-throwing in the Republican presidential primary race, among other distractions. Depending on what news outlet is being discussed, one could argue that this strategy has played out well for those individuals whose profits depend on pushing the limits of safety as they risk Nevada mine accidents.
This April will mark the two-year anniversary of one of the worse mining accidents in U.S. history, a coal mine explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. When Massey Energy’s mine exploded in an inferno of methane gas, all 29 miners in the vicinity were killed. Subsequent investigations have shown tremendous evidence of transgressions that in Las Vegas would be considered Nevada corporate liability, but litigation has been continuing for more than a year and a half without relief for affected families. According to many advocates for the families, a recently announced settlement has been just another blow to a community devastated by personal injury accidents.
A settlement reached this week between prosecutors and the new parent company of Massey Energy — a conglomerate known as Alpha Natural Resources — allows the company to pay stiff fines of $209 but short-circuit further civil and even criminal actions. Although the personal injury settlement is on its face a whopping sum, it has to be considered in context. Nearly 30 men died as a result of this disaster facilitated by documented, chronic rule-breaking; the amount works out to just over $7M per life. By the standards of Nevada wrongful death lawsuits and adding in the issues of wider civil penalties and documented criminal misconduct, fines of this nature are amount to a slap on the wrist for a company that forsakes workers’ lives for profits.
Outcomes like this sadden any Las Vegas personal injury lawyer or advocate for victims’ rights. Changes to federal laws are being proposed to hold mining executives criminally liable for chronic abuses in their mines rather than just using company profits to buy their freedom from accountability. If you have questions about a Nevada mining accident case or any other kind of personal injury matter, please contact our Nevada personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation.