By KYLA ASBURY
CHARLESTON - A Raleigh County couple is suing ICG Beckley LLC after they claim it was negligent in keeping its employees safe from work accidents.
Arch Coal Inc., Donnie S. Crum, Jeff Varney, Keith Goins and Raleigh General Hospital were also named as defendants in the suit.
On May 5, 2013, John R. Lucas was working at the direction of his employer, ICG, and during the course of the workday, he worked with two co-workers in performing rock dusting a slope, according to a complaint filed in Kanawha Circuit Court.
Lucas claims the slope to be rock dusted was approximately a half-mile in length at an 18-percent grade and he and his two co-workers were directed by Crum to rock dust the area by means of a rock duster, which was attached to the end of a lowboy, which was attached to a hoist car.
Eight pallets containing 40- to 80-pound bags of rock dust were placed, but not secured, on the lowboy and Lucas and his co-workers opened the bags of rock dust and placed it into the rock duster, according to the suit.
Lucas claims during the course of rock dusting, approximately halfway up the slope, the hoist operator stopped the hoist car and the plaintiff and his co-workers existed the hoist car.
While Lucas was on the lowboy retrieving bags of rock dust, the brake failed, causing the hoist car and lowboy to free fall approximately 20-25 feet before coming to a stop, according to the suit.
Lucas claims during the brake slippage, he yelled at his co-workers to get out of the way for their safety, but he was struck by four pallets that contained approximately 70 bags per pallet, and was pinned against the rock duster.
The plaintiff's co-workers worked to remove the rock dust in order to extricate Lucas and once he was extricated, his left leg was swollen, brushed and cut as a result of the brake failure and his back was injured, according to the suit.
Lucas claims his co-workers immediately called the dispatcher to report the accident, advising the dispatcher of Lucas' condition and requesting an ambulance as it appeared Lucas' leg was crushed.
Crum then canceled the ambulance and advised Lucas to take himself to the hospital, according to the suit.
Lucas claims prior to him being released from work to drive himself to the nearest emergency room for medical treatment, Crum and a shift foreman interviewed him and prepared what appeared to be an internal report of the accident, thereby delaying medical examination and treatment.
The plaintiff then drove himself while in pain to the emergency room at Raleigh General, according to the suit.
Lucas claims while in the waiting room of the emergency room, he met with Varney, a safety representative for Arch, as well as Lucas' wife.
As he was waiting in the waiting room, Varney questioned Lucas regarding the incident and his injuries, according to the suit.
Lucas claims Varney accompanied him to the examination room, without obtaining permission or authorization from him and was present while the medical providers examined and rendered treatment, which was in direct violation of Lucas' right to privacy and doctor-patient relationship.
Despite the seriousness of Lucas' injuries, Varney told him he wasn't broken and to "suck it up and get through it," according to the suit. Varney also convinced the emergency room physician to not take Lucas off work because the defendants could not afford any more lost-time accidents and that the defendants could give him light duty for an immediate return to work.
Lucas claims on May 6, 2013, he was given light duty work, but on May 7, 2013, he was placed on regular duty and required to perform his regular duties with overtime, all the while in pain from his injuries.
Approximately two weeks after the accident, Goins presented a written statement to Lucas and his co-workers, to sign, indicating that the plaintiff and the co-workers were at fault and that the written statement would "disappear" from their personnel files within 30 days, according to the suit.
Lucas claims Goins further advised him and the co-workers that if they did not sign the statement, they would be immediately fired, so they signed the document.
Lucas and his wife, Barbara Lucas, are seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. They are being represented by Anthony J. Majestro and J.C. Powell of Powell & Majestro PLLC.
The case is assigned to Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 15-C-852