Kentucky Miner’s Widow Seeks $37 Million in Damages

February 3, 2009

The widow of an eastern Kentucky coal miner who died on the job last year has sued one of the nation’s largest coal companies for more than $37 million in damages.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that an attorney for Susie Sturgill, widow of miner Roy D. Sturgill II, filed the lawsuit Friday in Letcher Circuit Court.

The suit names St. Louis-based Arch Coal Inc., and its subsidiary, Cumberland River Coal Co.

The lawsuit alleges that the company committed blatant safety violations that caused Sturgill’s death.

Sturgill died Jan. 8, 2008, after his truck backed over a dumping point and continued to go down the slope.

Sturgill was employed by Bates Contracting in Whitesburg, a contractor that supplies workers to coal companies. He had only been a rock-truck driver for 12 days before the accident, and had only driven on the night shift four times, the lawsuit said.

An investigation by the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing said the crash could have been prevented if Cumberland River Coal had followed state law.

Investigators said the safety barrier near the edge of the dump site– called a highwall — was constructed with damp soil and ranged in height from 17 to 46 inches. The berm was supposed to be sturdy and tall enough to allow a rock truck’s wheels to back against it, but not roll over it.

The lawsuit says a company supervisor, Gene Combs, looked at the berm just minutes before the accident.

“A few minutes later, you have a dead miner,” Susie Sturgill’s attorney, Tony Oppegard, told the newspaper.

State and federal regulators cited Cumberland River Coal over the inadequate berm. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration accused the company of high negligence and proposed a penalty of $60,000 for the alleged safety violation. The company is contesting the penalty, according to MSHA’s Web site.


Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader,

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.