Blankenship sues Alpha to get legal costs

By Kyla Asbury | Feb 10, 2015

CHARLESTON – The former CEO of Massey Energy is suing Alpha Natural Resources after he claims the company went back on an agreement requiring the company to pay his more than $3 million in legal costs.

Don Blankenship, who was charged in the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion that killed 29 men, filed his lawsuit Feb. 5 in the Delaware Court of Chancery.

Massey and Alpha are incorporated in Delaware.

Blankenship claims Alpha, who purchased Massey in 2011, told him in January it would not cover the costs to defend charges that he conspired to violate safety standards at Upper Big Branch Mine. There is a four-count indictment against Blankenship for alleging he conspired to violate mine safety rules, hamper federal safety enforcement and lied to securities regulators and investors.

"The defendants recently reneged on their agreements for mandatory advancement of the plaintiff’s attorneys' fees and expenses, a development which has threatened his ability to mount a defense," the document states.

Although originally refusing to provide an explanation as to why it would not pay his legal fees, on Feb. 2, Alpha said it had determined that Blankenship had reasonable cause to believe his conduct was unlawful, and, because of that, it would stop paying the legal fees and expenses.

Alpha also asked Blankenship to repay all money it had previously advanced to him by the company.

Blankenship claims Alpha was required to pay his legal fees under Massey's certificate of incorporation, his retirement agreement with Massey, under Alpha's merger agreement with Massey and under an agreement that hired the law firm Zuckerman Spaeder to represent Blankenship in Upper Big Branch legal matters.

Blankenship claims Alpha is refusing to cover his legal costs when he is most vulnerable and needs the resources that were promised to him the most.

Blankenship's attorneys also filed multiple motions to dismiss, a motion for bill of particulars, a motion to strike, a motion for miscellaneous relief, a motion for release of Brady materials, a motion to disqualify judge and a motion to continue, each with a memorandum in support, on Feb. 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Beckley.

The documents are not available to the public due to a gag order issued by U.S. District Judge Irene Berger.

Blankenship's criminal trial is scheduled for April 20 in Beckley.

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