West Virginia Record

Friday, April 3, 2020

Coal company has injury suit moved to federal court

By Kelly Holleran | Dec 10, 2009

BECKLEY – A coal company has removed to federal court a complaint in which a Raleigh County man claims he sustained a broken leg and other serious injuries after he was pinned between a machine and the wall of a coal mine.

In his complaint originally filed in Raleigh Circuit Court, Billy Gillenwater claims he was working as an underground coal miner for defendant Pocahontas Coal Company on Jan. 12, 2008, and was operating a remote-controlled continuous miner.

To operate the machine, Gillenwater was standing between the miner and the rib of the mine, according to his complaint filed Oct. 2.

"While Mr. Gillenwater was operating the continuous miner in this fashion he attempted to stop the continuous miner by using a remote control that controlled the miner," the suit states. "When Mr. Gillenwater attempted to stop the continuous miner, via the remote control, it failed to stop tramming and the continuous miner pinned Mr. Gillenwater between the continuous miner and the rib of the mine."

Because of the incident, Gillenwater suffered a right femur fracture, soft tissue injuries to his right leg, deep vein thrombosis, abrasions and contusions to his right leg, pain and numbness in his right leg, a right knee injury and mental and emotional injuries, the complaint says. In addition, Gillenwater claims he suffered pain, incurred medical costs and lost wages.

Gillenwater contends the incident never should have occurred because he notified two supervisors on separate occasions prior to the incident that the control was malfunctioning.

"Despite the Defendant's knowledge of the malfunctioning remote, Mr. Gillenwater was directed, required and/or allowed by the Defendant to operate the continuous miner as hereinabove described," the suit states.

Gillenwater's alleges deliberate intention to injure against Pocahontas Coal Company.

In his complaint, Gillenwater is seeking unspecified damages, attorney's fees, costs and other relief to which he may be entitled.

Pocahontas Coal Company removed Gillenwater's complaint to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia because it says Gillenwater -- a West Virginia citizen – and the coal company – a Delaware corporation – are residents of different states. In addition, Gillenwater is seeking more than $75,000, according to its removal.

Gillenwater will be represented by Eric J. Buckner of Katz, Kantor and Perkins in Bluefield.

Pocahontas Coal Company will be represented by Gary W. Hart and Jonathan L. Anderson of Jackson Kelly in Charleston.

U.S. District Court case number: 5:09-1219

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