T Nation

From Coal Mine To Court Room



The tragedy at Sago Mine in West Virginia was horrible, however the relay of information between one mine official and the families of 12 mine workers seems to have led to the families deciding to sue for grief. Apparently, the families were initially told that all 12 men had survived (along with the one survivor who had been found earlier). 3-4 hours later, word arrives that all 12 men are dead. The miscommunication wasn't just between the families as several news organizations also ran cover stories claiming all 12 had survived, calling it a miracle.

While one can understand the grief involved in being later told those you thought were alive are now dead, has this society gotten to the point where every mistake needs to end up in court?

Tragic? Yes. Cause for a law suit?

I can't even get the fat chick at Burger King to get my order right and make it my way...should I sue her for it?


I also think that all the lawsuits are getting ridiculous. They should have put a stop to this a long time ago. I've been living in Europe for the last 5 years and this problem doesn't exist here, at least not to the degree it does in America.

You've got fat people sueing candy bar makers, cigarette smokers sueing tobacco companys and I even read about a guy sueing apple because he has to use their music program with his Ipod! No one has to take responsibility for themselves anymore and nobody needs to have common sense either, in fact, it seems to be pretty profitable to be an idiot at times.

I don't understand the logic behind the court systems letting people make money with these bogus lawsuits.


I agree; it's a sad commentary on society. There was probably some trial pimp just waiting in the wings for the right moment to pounce and take advantage of the extreme emotions at that point. I am sure these trial lawyers are very good at exploiting such circumstances and high emotions to their benefit.

I cannot imagine that the mining company would deliberately lie about the status of those men just for the purpose of stringing the families along. I have to go with it being an honest and well-intended miscommunication. They probably genuinely thought they were bearing good news.

Now, the 200-plus safety violations of this particular mining facility may be another story. In any event, our thoughts and prayers should be for those families.


My personal favorite is the burglar who injures himself while breaking into someone's house and successfully sues the homeowners. I know this has happened at least once.


Pro X, you'll be shocked - shocked! -to learn that I agree with you.

I can't imagine what it must feel like to go from desperation and pessimism to hope and jubilation only to be knocked down again. My heart goes out to them.

But a lawsuit? Granted, no one should be making any statements about the miners until they know for sure, but suing is not the answer.


That was a grievous relay of mis-information. I've ben watching this unravel on the local news since it started.
I don't think that the tragedy surrounding this, or the loss of 12 people can be compared to the mis-preparation of your beloved hamburgrers.
The lack of tact that you have displayed by framing the subject as you have is absolutely disgusting.

I hope others reading this thread have the good sense to respond with nothing less than disgust and derision for the idiot who started this thread.


You miss the point - Pro X's point was about the reflex to sue any time a mistake is made, no matter how small or large. I don't think he was implying that an improperly fixed Whopper is the same as losing 12 miners - I suspect he was saying "where does it end?"


It is lack of tact to discuss the actions of the people involved? I do NOT agree that this is a case worthy of a law suit. Working in a mine is not hazard free. In fact, it is considered to be one of the most hazardous occupations in the world. I feel sorry for everyone who lost a family member. I hate that this happened. However, how is it wrong for me to discuss my opinon of how some people behaved?


Why would someone think I was comparing life to a hamburger? I was comparing HUMAN ERROR to random acts of daily HUMAN ERROR. It is a little disheartening to see that people are so quick to jump at any mistake made if they can and drag it into court. It implies that the person suing makes no mistakes. Unless these mine officials DELIBERATELY lied about the men believed to be alive, it was a mistake. It was a very tragic mistake, but this mistake isn't why they are dead. This mine had received SEVERAL citations for being unsafe. That means these workers knew going to work daily that the mine wasn't even up to code. Do you really blame the mine official who relayed the wrong info in this case?


I agree that the miscomunication is tragic and not grounds for a law suit.

I also think the amount of times that mine has been cited for safety violations in the recent past and apparently not fixed may be though.


What's this?

Looks to me like you are comparing the absurdity of sueing over something simple like the preparation of a burger to people sueing over the loss of a loved one in an industrial mishap. Sure, It's your inaliable right to sue, but to make a comparison like that is just plain old asanine.

It's also a little disheartening to see someone capitalize on a tragedy by turning it into an internet chat thread that addresses a pet peve of theirs. Within hours.

How does suing someone imply this?

Do you know what constitutes a violation?

Are you realy familiar enough with NMSA and OSHA codes to make a statement like that?

Exactly what is your experience in industrial environments that allows you to make such a statement?

What do you recomend as the proper course of acion that these families should take?


I agree the lawsuit for misinformation is likely the reaction of needing someone to blame for their tragic loss. You have to accept the fact that they(the family) aren't thinking very clearly.

If the accident could have been prevented by following SOPs they were sighted for not following the mine company is in for an asskicking in court.


This is not about simply suing over a loss. It is about specifically suing someone because they relayed bad info about who died and who didn't.

Capitalize on a tragedy? I don't get paid for this so how am I capitalizing on a tragedy by discussing it?

If you sue someone because of an actual mistake that did not result in anyone losing their life, but was a true simple mistake, it implies that you either don't make any simple mistakes or that you need to be sued for the simple mistakes you do make.

This statement:
"Since October, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued 50 citations to the Sago mine, some as recently as Dec. 21, including citations for accumulation of combustible materials such as coal dust and loose coal."

Possibly take personal responsibility for the fact that their loved ones worked in very KNOWN hazardous conditions and that if anyone is to be sued, it is NOT the guy who accidentally claimed people were still alive but the mine for having so many citations that were not corrected.


suing for miscommunication? That would be pathetic. I have read several articles on the incident that claim the mining company (ICG I think?) never released an official statement, that the news of 12 survivors was picked off of an internal communication. Anyone know more on that?


The suit, I think, would specifically need to be a tort claim for either Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress or Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress.

There's no way they would be able to get IIED under the facts I've seen, so I'll assume they're going with a theory of extreme negligence. Probably two claims there: 1) Against whomever relayed the information without verifying - that will probably fail too; 2) Against the company officials who withheld the correct information for 3 more hours after they learned of it before correcting the error. That's a more interesting claim, but unless they had a duty to correct the misinformation, probably also a loser.

That's the off-the-cuff legal analysis based on what I recall from 1st-year torts class.

On the topic of out-of-control lawsuits, I think it's definitely problematic. I think it's a function of several things, one being that it's always someone's fault when a bad thing happens -- the idea that there are accidents, or even unintended consequences of well intended actions that don't merit punishment, seems dead. The second is the punish-the-deep-pocket mentality that is only aided by the class-warfare rhetoric aimed at "evil corporations". In this case, it will be invective weighed at the mine, which will no doubt be on the hook fiscally for any sort of claim against its officials who were organizing the rescue efforts. If there weren't any deep pockets here, you wouldn't be hearing a peep about any lawsuit...


If the media was spreading the false report, then they should at least be a party in the law suit.

It is a tragedy what happened to the miers. But the press is way to hungry to lead what bleeds. I'm not saying that the press had a hand in the accident, but damn - I just wished they would cool their jets a get a story right every once in a while.

Remember NOLA and the bullshit the press was spewing? And they had the audacity to pat themselves on the back for their coverage.

But back on topic - I don't think there is any need for suing anyone over the fact that there was a miscommunication.


My great grandfather, my grandfather, and my father (only for a short time, fortunately) were all coal miners in the state of West Virginia. This is a horrible tragedy and my heart goes out to the families involved.

West Virginia has a struggling economy and many young people are forced to work in a coal mine. It has gotten better with this generation (more job options and a chance at college) but for some, it still remains a choice of being dirt poor or risking their lives in a coal mine to earn a decent living. They know the risk but sometimes it's not because they really want to take that risk. But whether by choice or not, my hat is off to the men who go into those dark mines night after night to provide for their families.

But back on topic, I agree with the thread starter that the miscommunication is not grounds for law suit. I went to sleep last night believing that the men had been rescued. I woke up to find they were all dead except one. It's horrible but not something that they should be able to sue for.

However, as for the ignored safety violations (if there turns out to be any), somebody should pay for that. Don't be surprised if it turns out that there were many other violations and a safety inspector was paid off to keep his mouth shut. If anything positive comes out of this tragedy, I hope it sheds light on the conditions where these men work.


Maybe SkyzykS should sue ProX, sounds like he's been inflicted with emotional distress by this thread.


Terrible tragedy. I can't imagine the emotional toll that must have taken on those folks.

Accidents like this are almost always caused by a series of events or failures rather then a single instance. Repeated safety violations or deferred maitenance issues build up over time.

It doesn't sound like the company intentionally misled the families. From the news stories I heard today it sounds like the rescue team communicated that they found the miners and they survived the initial accident. The news services reported that. Unfortunately the second part of the message was the fact that they subsequently died in the mine after the initial incident.

If the mine operator willfully disregarded safety standards it may be a criminal matter. I don't think the misinformation case will go anywhere and it shouldn't.


What happened at the Sago Mine was a tragedy. The victims and they're families are in my prayers. However, coal miners are paid very well for risks they face everyday. Most miner begin working right out of high school, and make good money considering they have no secondary schooling. Reporters have said the Sago Mine had recieved more than 200 saftey citations in 2005. The number of citations seems shockingly high, but what they fail to mention is that this number of citations is average for most mines across the nation. There really is no way to make a mine what most people consider "a safe working environment". One reporter put it perfectly, " Saftey officals force mining companies to meet certain saftey regulations and laws, but the industry is so dangerous that the laws are written in blood."