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W.Va. Mine Widows Bring Fight To Supreme Court

Stanley argued Wednesday that MSHA's inspectors allowed for the deplorable safety conditions later cited by the agency's investigation of the fire.

"Clearly, the condition of the mine worsened as a result of the lack of overall inspection and attention to general mine policies," Stanley said. "Nothing was ever done to make this mine safer in those last two years up until this fire."

Kingsley cited federal court decisions and similar laws in other states that he said shield MSHA from the lawsuit. He also said prior rulings involving the aircraft industry and a landlord's duty to tenants support MSHA's stance that it did not have the special relationship required to satisfy the legal standard sought by the widows.

Ruling in favor of the widows would also allow Aracoma to sue the government, Kingsley warned.

"That to me is an insane proposition," Kingsley told the justices.

Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell heard the case in the place of Justice Brent Benjamin. A 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision bars Benjamin from hearing any cases involving Massey after its then-chief executive, Don Blankenship, spent more than $3 million to help Benjamin win election in 2004. Massey has since been acquired by Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources Inc.

____

Online:

Court filings in Bragg & Hatfield vs. U.S.: http://bit.ly/Tullv9

Follow Lawrence Messina at http://twitter.com/lmessina

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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