Whitesburg KY

Coal firm wants lawsuit heard in federal court

Consol of Kentucky says a lawsuit filed against the company by 11 Letcher County residents should be heard in federal court instead of Letcher Circuit Court.

The lawsuit, filed in Whitesburg on April 9, charges that “noxious” mud and dust coming from Consol’s mining operations and coal preparation plant on Kentucky Route 7 near Deane has harmed their health and diminished the value of their homes and vehicles.

Listed as plaintiffs in the suit are Danny Akemon and his wife, Geneva; Nora Bentley; Ronald Bowen and his wife, Nancy; Karen Hall; Teddy Johnson and his wife, Nellie; Roger Tolliver; and Alben Watts and his wife, Jo Ella.

In a 10-page complaint filed on their behalf by attorneys David A. Barber and C. Phillip Wheeler Jr. of Kirk Law Firm in Pikeville, the plaintiffs allege that Consol’s spreading of “excessive quantities” of mud and dust has caused damage to their real and personal property, reduced caused them to lose income, caused them emotional distress, and caused them to lose the enjoyment of their property. The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages, interest on damages, and temporary and permanent injunctions ordering Consol to stop spreading mud and dust and to repair the properties already affected.

The plaintiffs had offered earlier to settle their dispute with Consol for $74,000 each before the suit was filed. In March, the plaintiffs wrote a letter to Consol saying that while the company’s dust control efforts had improved in “the very recent past,” that did nothing to fix the damages they had suffered in the past.

“My clients are very angry that they have been deprived of the enjoyment of their homes and yards for several years now and have had to incur additional expenses in order to make their residences livable and to keep the dust from damaging their personal property including but not limited to their vehicles and their furniture,” said the letter prepared for the plaintiffs by attorney Wheeler. “My clients consider the damages to be considerable, and I agree wholeheartedly. At the present time, I am able to offer to settle the claims on an individual basis for $74,000 each.”

In a “notice of removal” filed earlier this month, attorneys for Consol say the case should be heard in United States District Court in Pikeville because the amount in controversy exceeds the federal jurisdictional requirement of $75,000, and because the plaintiffs are Kentucky residents and Consol of Kentucky is “a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Pennsylvania.”

The action will remain in U.S. District Court unless a federal judge refuses to hear the case and sends it back to Letcher Circuit Court.

Consol is being represented by attorneys Bruce E. Cryder and Margaret A. Miller of Greenebaum Doll and McDonald in Lexington.

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