Supreme Court Hears Massey's Appeal of $50 Million Verdict Today

By Jeffrey V. Mehalic
West Virginia Business Litigation

October 3, 2007

The Supreme Court of Appeals hears argument today in an appeal from a $50 million verdict against A. T. Massey Coal Company and several of its subsidiaries, which was rendered in 2002. The parties’ briefs are posted [ http://www.state.wv.us/wvsca/calendar/oct10_07ad.htm ] on the Court's website.

The case was brought by Hugh Caperton as an individual, and by his company, Harman Development Corporation, which owned Harman Mining Corporation, and Sovereign Coal Sales, Inc., against Massey and its affiliates. In short, Caperton alleged that Massey put him and his companies out of business and caused him significant personal damage.

The Boone County, West Virginia jury awarded the Harman corporate entitles compensatory damages of $29.7 million, consequential damages of $3 million, and punitive damages of $2 million. The jury awarded Caperton compensatory damages of $3.4 million, general damages of $7.5 million, consequential damages of $425,000, and punitive damages of $4 million. I will write more about the case after the Court issues its decision (probably late next month), but I wanted to point out that the argument takes place today.

In addition to its appeal of the verdict, Massey has sought relief in the case in federal court as well, for alleged constitutional violations. The SW Virginia Law Blog has a post from last July about Massey’s lawsuit against the court reporter at the trial [ http://swvalaw.blogspot.com/2006_07_02_archive.html ] for her alleged failure to provide an adequate transcript of the trial, which Massey alleged was a violation of 42 U.S.C. 1983 because the reporter was acting under color of state law. The case was resolved after the court reporter was able to produce a transcript that satisfied Massey.

Massey also sued the Supreme Court of Appeals in federal court last year, seeking to have Rule 29 of the West Virginia Rules of Appellate Procedure declared unconstitutional. Rule 29 deals with the disqualification of justices, and Massey claimed that it was denied due process when Justice Larry Starcher refused to disqualify himself from an appeal involving Massey (and which resulted from the Caperton/Harman litigation). Here is Massey's complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief [ http://www.wvbusinesslitigationblog.com/Massey%20complaint.pdf ]. The case, Massey Energy Company, et al. v. Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, Civil Action No. 2:06-CV-0614, is pending before United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr.

Posted at 6:00 AM

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