Man Sues Mining Company, Others For Loss of Leg and Genitalia

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A West Virginia couple are bringing a lawsuit against the husband’s employer, Speed Mining, seeking damages for the loss of his leg and genitalia during a coal mine accident at the underground American Eagle Mine.

Jason D. O’Neal, who worked as an electrician for Speed Mining, claims that he experienced “catastrophic injuries” when a coal shuttle ran over his torso on June 20, 2009. He lost one leg and a significant portion of his torso, including his genitalia, the suit states. This has resulted in lost wages; lost earning capacity; lost enjoyment of life; pain; suffering; mental anguish; disfigurement; and incurred medical costs.

Andrea O’Neal and the couple’s three young children have additional lost their husband and father’s affection, care, income, services and duties.

The O’Neals say that Speed Mining was negligent in creating an unsafe working condition; knew that the work environment was hazardous and unsafe; violated federal and state laws; and intentionally exposed Jason O’Neal to unsafe working conditions. Also named in the suit are Patriot Coal Corporation, The Baughan Group, Coal Age Incorporated and Joy Technologies. According to the lawsuit, Patriot Coal negligently failed to exercise reasonable care; the other defendants are accused of having provided a defective shuttle car.

The Baughn Group denies the allegations against it and says that Jason O’Neal caused the accident himself through misconduct. Speed Mining and Patriot Coal also gainsay responsibility for the incident, claiming that no unsafe conditions existed, and that the fault lies with O’Neal.

The defendants removed the suit to U.S. District Court, because a diversity of citizenship exists between the defendants and the plaintiffs, and because the plaintiffs seek more than $75,000—although the amount the O’Neals are seeking remains unspecified.

The couple, who originally filed the suit in Wyoming Circuit Court, would like to see the case remanded to that jurisdiction, saying that the defendant Coal Age Incorporated based its citizenship on that of its parent company, the North-Carolina based Baughn Group. Their motion to remand says that the defendant’s parent company cannot be used to establish diversity for a federal jurisdiction.

CAI has countered with the assertion that most of its company’s business decisions are conducted in North Carolina, where its president lives, and it can therefore be considered a North Carolina corporation—thereby making the case eligible for a federal district court trial. Lawyers for CAI cite a precedent in Hertz Corp. v Friend, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the principal place of business should be deemed to the state where top officers make decisions, not the one in which the bulk of that company’s practices take place.

The O’Neals are also seeking punitive damages, loss of consortium and other relief.

 

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