Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Virginia jury awards $5M in coal contract dispute

A Southwest Virginia jury has awarded $5 million to a defunct coal company and its owner in their long-running legal battle with Massey Energy over a coal supply contract. A Buchanan County jury awarded $4 million in damages to Harman Mining and two related companies. The jury also awarded $1 million to the companies' owner, Hugh Caperton, for personal financial damages, media outlets reported.

The jury issued its verdict Friday afternoon following a five-week trial in Grundy.

Caperton had claimed his companies were financially damaged when Massey slashed the amount of coal it had agreed to buy from the companies. Harman Mining ceased operations1998. Alpha Natural Resources bought Massey in 2011 and assumed many of Massey's liabilities, includthe Capertonrton lawsuit.

One of the West Virginia appeals attracted national attention when it reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2009 that West Virginia Justice Brent Benjamin should have recused himself because then-Massey CEO Don Blankenship had spent $3 million to help Benjamin win elcourt. Ato the court.

A subsequent West Virginia Supreme Court ruling suggested the case should have been filed in Buchanan County, site of a related lawsuit that resulted in a $6 million judgment for the plaintiffs. Caperton followed that suggestion with a new filing in November 2010 alleging tortious interference and fraudulent misrepresentation.

Buchanan County Circuit Court Judge Henry A. Vanover tossed that lawsuit, finding that the issues had already been hashed out in previous cases. The Virginia Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that the issues in the Virginia filing were different, and sent the case back to Buchanan County for further proceedings.