BECKLEY – A Lester man and his wife have filed suit against the manufacturers and distributors of a respirator that they say allowed particles to escape into the mask, causing the man to develop a lung disease.
Troy and Tressie Marie Richardson claim Troy Richardson was exposed to the harmful particles during his career as a coal miner from 1971 until the present. According to the complaint originally filed June 29 in Raleigh Circuit Court, Troy Richardson used the allegedly defective respirators manufactured by defendants American Optical Corporation and Mine Safety Appliances Company while working in the mines.
Unbeknownst to Troy Richardson, the respirators leaked substantial amounts of harmful dust into his breathing zone, the suit states.
"The defects causing the leakage were hidden, and the dust leaking through the AO and MSA respirators were so small (submicron in size), it was undetectable by the human senses (including Mr. Richardson's senses)," the complaint says.
Because of the leaking dust, Troy Richardson claims he developed coal worker's pneumoconiosis, which is more commonly known as black lung. Black lung caused Troy Richardson severe and permanent damages, physical pain, suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, loss of his ability to enjoy life, lost wages and a loss of his earning capacity, according to the complaint.
In their two-count complaint, the Richardsons allege negligence against American Optical and Mine Safety and strict liability against the six defendants who they claim distributed the respirators.
The defendants removed the case to U.S. District Court because they say the Richardsons are seeking more than $75,000. In addition, they say the only viable defendants are American Optical and Mine Safety – both of which are residents of different states than the Richardsons.
The remaining distributor defendants were only named in the suit in an attempt to defeat federal jurisdiction, the defendants argue.
"Not only have the plaintiffs completely failed to identify what respirator(s) manufactured by American Optical was allegedly defective and caused them harm, Plaintiffs have offered no proof that the particular American Optical respirator(s) at issue was in fact distributed by any of the non-diverse distributor defendants," the response states. "The plaintiffs have simply alleged that Mr. Richardson wore respirators manufactured by American Optical and that the distributor defendants distributed respirators manufactured by American Optical to Mr. Richardson's employers. Without any proof that the particular American Optical respirator(s) at issue worn by Mr. Richardson was in fact distributed by any of the non-diverse distributor defendants, there is no possibility that plaintiffs can establish any cause of action against the non-diverse distributor defendants in this case."
In their complaint, the Richardsons seek compensatory and punitive damages, plus costs, a declaration of rights, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief to which they may be entitled.
The Richardsons will be represented by John Hunt Morgan of Williamson.
The defendants will be represented by J. Tyler Dinsmore, Frances M. Rollins and Michelle B. Hoosier of Flaherty, Sensabaugh and Bonasso in Charleston.
U.S. District Court case number: 5:10-cv-900