Ten suits filed by coal miners against respirator-makers

By Kyla Asbury | Jul 24, 2014

LOGAN - Coal miners in Boone, Logan, Fayette, McDowell and Mingo counties are suing the manufacturers of respirators they claim were defective and caused them to develop black lung disease.

Mine Safety Appliances Company; Mine Safety Appliances Company LLC; Persinger Supply Company; Raleigh Mine & Industrial Supply Inc.; and Eastern States Mine Supply Co. were all named as defendants in the suit.

Ronald Hatfield and Rebecca Hatfield; Billy R. Williams and Delilah Williams; Derrick Thompson and Connie Thompson; Ballard Taylor and Linda L. Taylor; David A. Crum and Kelly Jo Crum; Randolph G. Farley and Patricia Farley; Ward L. Mitchell and Rita Mitchell; Ralph Day; Clifford Toler; and Tommy Daniels were coal miners and spouses and used respirators manufactured and sold by the MSA defendants for protection against harmful dust and used the respirators in the intended manner, according to 10 complaints filed on July 3 in Boone, Logan, Fayette, McDowell and Mingo Circuit Courts.

The plaintiffs claim the defendants sold the respirators to the plaintiffs' employers, who, in turn, provided them to the plaintiffs.

"The respirators used by plaintiff[s] and manufactured, sold and distributed by the defendants were subjected to normal use and remained, in all material respects, in the same condition at the time of sale," the complaints state.

The plaintiffs claim the respirators leaked substantial amounts of harmful dust into their breathing zones and these defects causing the leakage were hidden and the dust leaking through the respirators was so small, it was undetectable by the human senses.

"Thus [the plaintiffs were] not aware of the harmful dust leaking through [their] MSA respirators nor of the causal connection between [their] respirators and [their] disease[s]; rather, [they] believed that [their] MSA respirators [they] used were protecting [their] lungs from the harmful dust in the mines," the complaints state.

The plaintiffs only discovered that the respirators they used may have been the cause of their diseases within two years of filing these complaints, according to the suits.

The plaintiffs claim they developed occupational lung dust disease, known as coal worker's pneumoconiosis and/or "black lung."

The plaintiffs' lung diseases were caused by the hidden defects in and the inadequate warnings provided with the MSA respirators, according to the suits.

"Based on the foregoing, the defendants have breached the implied warranty of fitness because the respirators they placed into the stream of commerce were defective and not reasonably suitable, safe or fit for the purposes for which they were sold," the complaints state. "Implicit in the respirators' presence on the market was the representation by the manufacturers and sellers that the respirators would safety perform the functions for which they were constructed."

As a direct and proximate result of the defective and unsafe respirators manufactured, distributed and sold by the defendants, the plaintiffs have suffered serious bodily harm and/or damages, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. They are being represented by G. Todd Houck; and Eric J. Jacobi, William R. Kenealy, Christopher M. Dukes of Kenealy & Jacobi PLLC.

Boone Circuit Court case numbers: 14-C-133, 14-C-134; Logan Circuit Court case numbers: 14-C-179, 14-C-180, 14-C-181, 14-C-182; Fayette Circuit Court case number: 14-C-186; McDowell Circuit Court case numbers: 14-c-77, 14-c-78; Mingo Circuit Court case number: 14-c-136

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