MADISON -- Three more lawsuits have been filed against Massey Energy over last year's deadly mine explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 miners and injured two.
The three suits were filed on March 7 in Boone Circuit Court on behalf of the families of Joe Marcum and Adam Morgan, who died in explosion. The third case was filed on behalf of Stanley Stewart, who was injured in the disaster.
Massey Coal Services and Performance Coal Company are also defendants in the suit.
Massey operated the Upper Big Branch mine in a willful, wanton and recklessly unsafe manner that caused the deaths of Marcum and Morgan and injuries to Stewart, according to the complaints.
Don Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy, was aware of the unsafe manner in which the Upper Big Branch Mine was operated as his involvement necessarily included his knowledge of the "staggering number of safety violations issued by safety authorities to Performance Coal related to the Upper Big Branch Mine prior to the explosion," according to the suit.
The plaintiffs claim that prior to the disaster, the mine had an abysmal safety record, as it had dramatically declined between 2008 and 2010.
The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration found that the mine was not properly treated with crushed limestone or "rock dust" to control the buildup of explosive coal dust, according to the suit.
The plaintiffs also claim Massey damaged potential evidence by allowing employees Christopher Blanchard and Jason Whitehead into the mine shortly after the explosion and by the "illegal actions of Hughie Elbert Stover and others at Performance Coal," who allegedly tried to destroy evidence to hinder the government's disaster investigation.
Despite the present of Blanchard and Whitehead in the mine for more than four hours and despite their first-hand knowledge that the explosion had killed all of the miners underground, the defendants "nevertheless did not fully inform the appropriate regulatory agency representatives nor did they inform the families as they kept vigil on the mine site," according to the suit.
Instead, the families and the rest of the nation were allowed to sit through several days of vigil without being given information known to the defendants relating to the fate of their loved ones.
At least two other miners' families have filed lawsuits. Massey reached settlements with seven families earlier this month.
Kathy Marcum, Tammy Morgan and Stewart are seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. They're being represented by Timothy Bailey, Guy R. Bucci, L. Lee Javins, D. Blake Carter Jr. and J. Ryan Stewart.
Boone Circuit Court case numbers: 11-C-46, 11-C-47, 11-C-48