POMEORY —A wrongful death lawsuit was filed in Meigs County Court of Common Pleas on Thursday afternoon by the father of the late Joshua Napper.
Thursday marked the two year anniversary of the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, W.Va., which killed Napper and 28 other coal miners.
The explosion began as a methane gas ignition then turned into a massive, chain-reaction blast fueled by combustible coal dust that had been allowed to accumulate. Ventilation and equipment problems reportedly contributed to the blast, which traveled seven miles of underground corridors.
Scott R. Napper, of Langsville, as administrator of the estate of Joshua Napper, filled a 47-page complaint against David Stanley Consultants, LLC, with the Meigs County Clerk of Courts office.
The complaint states that, at the time of the explosion, Napper was employed by the defendant. David Stanley Counsultants was cited for two contributory violations in December 2011 by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.
The complaint states that while working as an employee of the defendant, Napper was exposed to specific unsafe conditions that presented a high degree of risk and a strong probability of serious injury or death, and that the unsafe conditions were created by the acts and/or omissions of the defendant and others.
David Stanley Consultants, LLC, is a limited liability company in West Virginia, authorized to do business in Ohio, as well. The company maintains a regional office in St. Clairsville, Ohio, with primary office in Fairmont, W.Va.
In all, MSHA’s final report on the disaster detailed 369 safety violations at Upper Big Branch, including 12 it said contributed to the explosion.
MSHA labeled nine of the violations that led to the accident as flagrant, the most serious designation, and said they included illegally tipping off miners that inspectors were on the site and failing to conduct proper safety inspections.
The lawsuit says that while some unsafe conditions were created by Massey, others were created by David Stanley’s failure to do the job it was hired to do.
Failure to do weekly exams between Jan. 1, 2010, and April 5, 2010, “created a very obvious hazardous condition” that was “more than ordinary negligence,” it contends.
The unsafe conditions were documented in reports by the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the Governor’s Independent Panel. The reports were made public in December 2011 and May 2011, respectively.
Unsafe work conditions in the reports include, but are not limited to, failure to conduct adequate weekly examinations, failure to conduct adequate pre-shift and on-shift examinations, failure to comply with the approved training plan in effect at the mine, failure to follow the ventilation plan, failure to adequately apply and maintain rock dust, the regular practice of providing advance notice of inspectors being present, the practice of allowing loose coal, coal dust and float coal dust to accumulate in active workings and on rock surfaces of the mine, failure to immediately correct or post conspicuous “danger” signs when hazardous conditions were observed or recorded, failure to comply with the approved roof plan, failure to maintain the volume and velocity of the air current, and failure to maintain the JOY 7LS long wall shearer in a safe operating condition.
The complaint goes on to say that the defendant knew of, or directly committed, the acts of failure to identify and correct obvious hazardous conditions and to conduct adequate pre-shift examinations, and failure to immediately correct or post with conspicuous “danger” signs.
The lawsuit says that the “plaintiff suffered damages and is entitled to compensation for funeral and burial expenses, loss of support, loss of income, services, protection, care and assistance, for sorrow, for mental anguish, for loss of society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices, and advice, and for other damages arising out of and related to the wrongful death of Joshua Napper.”
The plaintiff is also asking for the suit to be decided in a trial by jury.