Workplace Safety

Experience

Secretary of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration, (MSHA), v. North American Drillers, LLC, Docket Nos. LAKE 2008-2-R and LAKE 2008-98 (February 12, 2012)

The Secretary of the Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued a citation to our client, a national drilling company. After completion of the discovery process and conducting depositions to determine the citation’s validity, the Secretary vacated the enforcement action and civil penalty. We filed a declaratory judgment action with an ALJ which was denied. We then appealed, and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission upheld the mine operator’s argument that the Commission’s jurisdiction relating to a legal challenge, issued pursuant to Section 105(d) of the Mine Act, does not terminate upon the Secretary of Labor’s vacating of a citation and civil penalty.

AT&T Corp. Deliberate Intent Litigation (Kanawha, County, WV 2008)

Lead counsel in the successful defense of AT&T against 25 consolidated deliberate intent civil actions filed by a unified group of former employees who alleged that they sustained serious injuries as a result of exposure to mold in the company’s Charleston Call Center. Suit also was filed against several co-defendants, including the building’s owners and maintenance contractors. AT&T denied that there was mold present in the building sufficient to establish the existence of a specific unsafe working condition, or that the plaintiffs could establish any of the other requisite statutory elements of their deliberate intent claims. After extensive lay and expert witness discovery, the plaintiff’s dismissed their claims against AT&T in exchange for payment of only nominal sums.

Secretary of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) v. Oak Grove Resources, LLC. Docket No. SE 2007-194 (November 26, 2007)

This case involved, inter alia, a significant and substantial, high gravity and moderate negligence violation of 30 C.F.R. Section 75.604(b) issued by MSHA alleging that a permanent splice in the trailing cable on a shuttle car was not effectively insulated and sealed to exclude moisture.

The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held that the Secretary of Labor did not sustain her burden of proving the alleged violation was significant and substantial or of high gravity, and that the negligence should be reduced from moderate to low. The ALJ assessed a penalty of $250.00 for the violation.

Eastern Associated Coal Corp. v. United Mine Workers of America, District 17, et al., 531 U.S. 57 (2000)

U.S. Supreme Court held that public policy considerations do not require courts to refuse to enforce an arbitration award ordering an employer to reinstate an employee truck driver even though he twice tested positive for drug use.  Worked with now-Chief Justice John Roberts, who was retained to do oral argument to the Supreme Court.

Commercial Litigation

Represented Central West Virginia Energy (Central Energy) in a suit against Mountain State Carbon and related companies in federal court for breach of a coal supply contract and related tort claims arising out of improper interference with Mountain State Carbon’s contractual obligations. Damages claimed exceeded $30,000,000. After the claims were dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, Central Energy pursued an appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the dismissal and reinstated the claims to be resolved on the merits. The Fourth Circuit’s opinion was the first federal appellate court decision to apply the United States Supreme Court’s “nerve center” test announced in the decision of Hertz v. Friend, 130 S. Ct 1181 (2010) for determining where a corporation has its “principal place of business” for purposes of ascertaining federal court jurisdiction over claims between citizens of different states (known as diversity jurisdiction).

Hilton v. Stockhausen, Ciba and American Cyanamid

Represented manufacturer (Stockhausen) of polyacrylamide flocculants in first personal injury case filed in West Virginia in which Plaintiff claimed neurologic injury/polyneuropathy as a result of exposure to residual amounts of acrylamide while working at municipal wastewater treatment facility. This matter resulted in a favorable settlement on behalf of our client.

Decertification Defense

When a miner was facing decertification proceedings from the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training, he turned to Dinsmore. Our client was accused of not properly locking and tagging a piece of equipment, which violates state law. As a result, the state of West Virginia sought permanent decertification of the miner. We conducted on-site research at the mine, interviewing witnesses and examining the company’s safety policies, procedures and records. We determined the alleged violation did not rise to the level of permanent decertification and entered into negotiations with the state of West Virginia. We reached a settlement favorable to our client, allowing him to avoid permanent decertification and return to work.

U.S. v. Coal Company

We represented the Defendant coal company in a federal suit seeking $20 million in penalties for alleged criminal violations of health and safety standards.  After a four week trial, the District Court imposed $300,000 in fines.  The U.S. appealed and the Sixth Circuit affirmed.

OSHA Matters - Construction Projects

Successfully negotiated multiple claims by OSHA on construction-related accidents.