Marion man says coal company to blame for job injury

By Kelly Holleran | Jan 12, 2009

CLARKSBURG -- A Marion County man who received an electrical shock while working for Eastern Associated Coal and his wife are seeking unspecified damages against the company for allegedly providing an unsafe place for him to work.

Anthony Bernardo was performing his tasks as an underground coal miner at the Federal No. 2 coal mine in Fairview on Aug. 3, 2006, when he was "seriously and permanently injured" after receiving an electrical shock, according to the complaint he filed Aug. 1 in Marion Circuit Court.

Because of the shock, Anthony Bernardo incurred medical expenses and experienced lost wages, loss of his earning capacity, pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress and permanent disability and disfigurement, the suit states.

His wife, Debbie Bernardo, suffered a diminution of Anthony Bernardo's love, services, society and companionship, the couple claims.

Eastern Associated Coal violated West Virginia Code by exposing Anthony Bernardo and his coworkers to dangerous levels of electricity, which presented a high degree of risk, by being aware of the unsafe working condition yet exposing Anthony Bernardo to it and by failing to provide employees with proper equipment and training to prevent hazards, according to the complaint the Bernardos filed.

However, Eastern Associated Coal contends there was no specific unsafe working condition at its mine nor did it have knowledge of an unsafe working condition.

"Eastern did not violate any federal or state statutory rules or regulations that proximately caused Plaintiff Anthony Bernardo's injury," the company's answer to the complaint states.

It also contends it did not violate any safety standards.

The Bernardos have failed to state a cause of action in their complaint where relief may be granted and they have failed to take reasonable steps to mitigate their damages, Eastern Associated Coal's complaint states.

In addition, the company alleges the Bernardos claim should not be allowed to go to court because the statute of limitations has expired.

The Bernardos are seeking an unspecified judgment for Anthony Bernardo's personal injuries, medical expenses, wage loss, his loss of earning capacity, pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, mental and emotional distress and permanent disability and disfigurement.

They are also seeking unspecified damages for Debbie Bernardo's loss of consortium, plus the couple's costs, attorneys' fees, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief the court deems just.

After learning of the suit, Eastern Associated Coal moved the case to federal court because it is between parties of different states and because the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

Steptoe and Johnson are serving of counsel to Eastern Associated Coal's attorneys C. David Morrison and James W. Heslep of Clarksburg.

Kevin S. Kaufman of Kaufman and Bowen in Bridgeport will be representing the Bernardos.

U.S. District Court case number: 1:08-CV-221

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