Utah Mining Company Fights Worker Comp Claim

September 26, 2008

The Crandall Canyon mining company is fighting a family’s claim for worker’s compensation benefits for the death of one of the coal miners killed by a cave-in last year.

With his paycheck, Juan Carlos Payan was supporting his disabled father, mother and two young sisters in Mexico, according to his family.

The parents want full benefits of about $2,400 a month for six years — five times the amount offered by Genwal Resources Inc. and Rockwood Casualty Insurance Co.

The companies argued that Payan had two other siblings working in Utah to help support the family and that he wasn’t the sole benefactor.

An administrative law judge for the Utah Labor Commission presided over the hearing on Wednesday.

Aurora Holley said her decision was two or three months away.

Juan Carlos was one of six miners entombed in Crandall Canyon by a collapse on Aug. 6, 2007, that was so extensive it flattened an area half a mile underground equal to 63 football fields without the end zones, according to satellite radar images.

Payan was 22. Wednesday’s hearing established that he started working in Utah coal mines before he turned 16, first for the Co-op Mine. He left for nearby Crandall Canyon in 2004 with a brother, Luis, after a strike over pay and working conditions at the Co-op mine.

Bret Gardner, an attorney for the mining and insurance companies, said banking records and Western Union transfers show that Carlos and Luis Payan and a married sister, Miriam Castro, sent $268,000 to their parents in Mexico over several years.

Gardner said only $90,000 of the total came from Juan Carlos Payan.

But Luis Payan testified much of the $268,000 was money he wired to Mexico for a home and property for himself, not to support the family.

His sister also testified that she often wired Juan Carlos’ entire paycheck to Mexico. He was living with Miriam Castro’s family in a mobile home in Huntington, Utah.

The family’s attorney, Ed Havas, argued that no records or witnesses can deny the family’s contention that Juan Carlos Payan alone was supporting his parents and young sisters in Mexico.

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune.

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