West Virginia Mine Widows Bring Fight to Supreme Court

By LAWRENCE MESSINA | October 18, 2012

Two widows are asking West Virginia’s Supreme Court to allow them to sue federal mine inspectors for their husbands’ deaths.

Delorice Bragg and Freda Hatfield allege that the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration should have detected dangerous conditions at Massey Energy’s Aracoma Alma No. 1 mine.

Don Bragg and Ellery Elvis Hatfield died in the Logan County mine during a 2006 fire. Massey and its subsidiary later agreed to pay $4.2 million in criminal fines and civil penalties.

The Supreme Court is holding a hearing Wednesday before answering the liability question for the widows’ federal lawsuit.

Federal lawyers argue that state law does not allow a claim against MSHA given the facts of the case.

The widows settled with the company for undisclosed terms in 2008.

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