West Virginia Widows Want Mine Inspectors Held Liable

By VICKI SMITH | August 17, 2012

Lawyers for the widows of two men killed in a 2006 mine fire want the state Supreme Court to declare that federal mine safety inspectors can be held legally liable when workers die as a result of their negligence.

A federal appeals court said last month the justices should explicitly decide whether Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors can be liable, calling it a matter of exceptional importance for West Virginia.

On Wednesday, Delorice Bragg and Freda Hatfield petitioned for a ruling. Their husbands died in a conveyer belt fire at Massey Energy’s Aracoma Alma No. 1 mine.

An internal MSHA investigation found inspectors failed to identify and correct obvious safety violations that contributed.

The petition says the court’s failure to rule would effectively grant inspectors immunity they don’t deserve.

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