Complicated CWP at Wayne County Rock Spring Development Mine

Coal Workers Pneumoconiosis (CWP), or black lung disease, has been linked to several recent cases of complicated CWP (including some fatalities) at the Rock Spring Development Mine in Wayne County, WV. Fault lies with a deadly combination of illegal mining practices and several brands of defective respirators that did not protect miners due to a design flaw.

Coal workers at Rock Spring developed black lung disease by inhaling coal dust that causes the color of the lungs to turn from pink to black.

Types of Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis

CWP is found in two general forms:

  1. Simple CWP: This form of CWP indicates 1 – 2 nodular aggregations within the lungs. Simple CWP is an early form of the condition that is typically diagnosed with a chest X-ray.
  2. Complicated CWP: Complicated CWP is a result of extended exposure, leading to CWP with progressive massive fibrosis (PMF). It is characterized by the development of large, fibrous masses 1 cm in diameter or larger form in the upper region of the lungs.

The CDC reports an increase in complicated CWP black lung claims. NPR reports over 962 cases of black lung in the previous decade. The primary areas of complicated CWP occurrences include Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

Symptoms of Complicated Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis

Sufferers of complicated CWP can experience the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Black sputum
  • Decreased lung capacity
  • Heart problems
  • Chronic cough
  • Pulmonary hypertension

Complicated CWP at the Wayne County Rock Spring Development Mine

Rock Spring Development Mine is a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources. Alpha filed for bankruptcy before gaining approval for a restructuring plan in 2016. The company (and many of its subsidiaries including Rock Spring) appear to have used illegal mine ventilation and respirable dust practices along with defective respirators, leading to increased occurrences of black lung disease.

Current court cases (here and here) indicate a potential breach in safety standards, with a higher risk of black lung disease among workers at the company’s plant.

In May 2015, the Rock Spring Development mine was idled, but there is potentially a long lasting impact to be felt by the mine’s former employees.

Verdicts and Settlements in Complicated CWP Cases

Workers with potential cases of complicated CWP should seek medical attention and seek legal guidance in filing a claim against the mine.

BJC has successfully settled cases in the millions of dollars against coal companies which we have shown to have mined in violation of mandatory ventilation and respirable dust standards.  These illegal activities include not hanging ventilation curtain, operating equipment with inoperable dust suppression systems, mining off sequence and exposing miners to dirty return air much more often than allowed, receiving advanced warning of inspectors in order to fix ventilation violations before the inspectors get underground, manipulating MSHA dust sampling and outright cheating on company dust sampling.

Additionally, defective dust masks have led to several successful coal dust mask litigation cases in recent years.

Prime examples of verdicts in these cases include:

$7.2 Million

A $7.2 million verdict was awarded to a Kentucky man. This case was the first to go to a verdict in a defective face mask lawsuit against Mine Safety Appliances. Officials recognized the masks were defective in the 1970s and called for a ban of the product. The company continued to sell the masks for an additional 15 years.

The plaintiff unknowingly continued to use this mask, leading to him suffer from CWP. In addition, the manufacturer sold masks to many workers and companies in the coal mining industry across WV during this same time period.

10 lawsuits were filed against Mine Safety Appliances by July of 2014, alleging that the company sold the faulty respirators, proven to not work, to the employers of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs, in turn, wore the masks provided to them.

Substantial amounts of dust entered the masks despite the masks being worn to the safety requirements set forth by the manufacturer. The plaintiffs had no knowledge of the masks leaking in the harmful coal dust at the time.

Complicated workers’ pneumoconiosis is 100% preventable if the coal mine companies take the proper steps to make the air quality in the mines safe. The use of defective masks is the fault of the manufacturer for making them available, as well as the coal mine company that knowingly distributed these defective masks to its employees as a cheaper alternative to addressing air quality standards in the mines.

Alpha Natural Resources has been known to fight hard against employees who file claims after being diagnosed with black lung disease. One man, Robert Long, worked at the company’s Emerald Mine for 35 years and now relies on oxygen just to continue breathing.

The company fought the claim and sent Mr. Long to two doctors, both of whom were assigned by the company. The doctors concluded that the man was “healthier.” The case dragged on for four years, with Mr. Long finally prevailing.

Free Initial Consultation with an Injury Attorney in Charleston

Bailey, Javins and Carter, L.C., firmly believes that what is happening to coal miners is unforgivable. We understand the physical, emotional and financial struggles coal miners and their families face when dealing with the outcome of these ailments, and we are committed to obtaining the just compensation you deserve. If you believe you have been harmed by illegal mine practices and/or a defective respirator and have been diagnosed with complicated CWP, please contact Bailey Javins & Carter at (800) 497-0234.  Our experienced and knowledgeable black lung attorneys stand ready to support your claim. View our resources page to learn more.







Personal Injury Lawyer

For-Profit Law Schools – Recent Troubles – Future Opportunities

For-profit law schools, by their very nature, present a dichotomy.  On the one hand, a law school should always have the best interest of their students in mind when making any decisions related to running the school. Curriculum, professors, facilities should all support the law school’s students in acquiring the best education possible and provide them with the foundation to pass the Bar Exam.  But, for-profit law schools are motivated by something more than producing quality Juris Doctorate candidates.  They are motivated by profits and all too often the quest to be profitable runs contrary to the need to prepare students for their future profession.

Choosing the right law school can be challenging for many prospective law school students.  Having recently completed a Bachelor’s Degree program and armed with LSAT scores, a potential future lawyer will often apply to a number of law schools in order to improve their chances of being accepted. Because of fierce competition in upper tier law schools, many students are forced to consider other options.  Many law school candidates face other challenges and need to seek out a non-traditional law school to accommodate their lifestyle.

These students often turn to for-profit law schools.

What is a For-Profit Law School?
A for-profit law school is a private institution that is generally owned by a private business entity.  The school operates as a business and the product it sells is legal education.  Usually, the stated goal of these schools is to provide a quality legal education to law students preparing them to pass the bar exam and enter the practice of law.  If the school meets these goals, they effectively educate their students, prepare them for the bar exam and make a profit for the business entity that owns the school.  Unfortunately, when faced with decisions where education and profit are not aligned, these schools will almost always choose profit.

For-Profit Law Schools – Pros & Cons
For-profit law schools provide some benefit for potential law school students seeking a legal education.

  • Lower admission standards. For those students who aren’t able to gain entrance into higher tier law schools, a for-profit law school may be their only option.
  • Flexible programs & classes. Many non-traditional law school students have unique requirements of their school schedule.  For-profit law schools often work to accommodate these students.

There are drawbacks of for-profit law schools as well.

  • They are generally very expensive. For-profit law schools structure their tuition programs around Federal Financial Aid, knowing their students are often eligible and can often secure Aid with a simple signature.
  • Inadequate preparation for the Bar Exam. For-profit law schools are profit driven businesses and often allow the quest for profitability to overshadow the investment needed to create a sound educational environment.

InfiLaw Incorporated & For-Profit Law Schools
InfiLaw owns three for-profit law schools: The Charlotte School of Law (CSL), Arizona Summit and Florida Coastal School of Law.  CSL has been embroiled in controversy for the last several months due to:

  • Their inability to properly prepare students for the bar exam and low bar exam pass rates
  • American Bar Association (ABA) Probation for compliance issues tied to admission policies and practices
  • Loss of Federal Student LoansExtremely poor communication with their student body on the condition of the school and their standing with the ABA and the United States Department of Education (USDOE)
  • Extremely poor communication with their student body on the condition of the school and their standing with the ABA and the United States Department of Education (USDOE)

The latest of InfiLaw’ s three for-profit law schools to come under scrutiny from both the American Bar Association (ABA) and the Federal Government is Arizona Summit.  The school was recently penalized by the ABA, as the ABA’s Accreditation Committee found the school in violation of five of its law school standards. The school did not contest those findings.  It is unclear as to what steps the U.S. Department of Education will take in light of the ABA’s probationary penalty.

In 2010, the USDOE adopted a standard that is meant to strengthen the federal student aid program. To meet the requirements, a graduate’s student loan payments should be 12% or less of their annual post-graduate earnings.  Graduates of several InfiLaw’s for-profit law schools have debt-to-income ratios of 21% or more.

Relief Sought for CSL Students
On December 22, 2016, Bailey Javins & Carter (BJC) filed a lawsuit on behalf of four CSL students accusing the CSL, its owners, managers, and the U.S. Department of Education of breach of contract for failing to comply with both ABA and USDOE standards.  BJC’s complaint seeks remedies for students who have, or will have, devalued or incomplete degrees and asks for full student loan forgiveness.

If you have been harmed by CSL, Arizona Summit or any other for-profit law school and need legal assistance, contact Bailey Javins & Carter.  Our experienced legal team is eager to help you recover damages and to assist you in protecting your rights.  Call us today at (800) 497-0234 or contact us online.