UAE settles Crandall Canyon lawsuit

DETAILS are being kept under wraps on a settlement made this week between Crandall Canyon mine owner UtahAmerican Energy and a large group of plaintiffs, nearly two years after an accident at the mine involving multiple fatalities.
UAE settles Crandall Canyon lawsuit UAE settles Crandall Canyon lawsuit UAE settles Crandall Canyon lawsuit UAE settles Crandall Canyon lawsuit UAE settles Crandall Canyon lawsuit

Crandall Canyon mine.

Donna Schmidt

“All of the plaintiffs and defendants in the civil lawsuits stemming from the August 2007 accidents at Genwal Resources’ Crandall Canyon mine have reached a comprehensive settlement for a confidential amount,” UtahAmerican said.

“The settlement culminates almost a year of negotiations and represents a monumental success, in that it brought numerous and wide-ranging interests together: 16 groups of plaintiffs, seven defendants (five companies and two public entities) and six insurance companies.”

By settling, the operator and families of the victims avoid lengthy and expensive civil litigation regarding the collapse that took the lives of six miners on August 6, 2007, and three rescuers who had gone into the mine to look for them 10 days later, on August 16.

“The parties decided to work together toward an amicable, reasonable settlement to put these matters in the past, provide for the victims and their families’ futures, and allow all concerned to move forward,” the company noted.

A statement released on behalf of the plaintiffs said: “The parties expressed hope that the settlement would bring a measure of closure and a sense of healing to the families of those who were lost or injured, current and former company employees, company management, the residents of Carbon and Emery counties, and the coal mining industry in general.

“Ultimately, the plaintiffs, the defendants and their insurers recognised the extent of factual complexities and novel questions of law, and the time and expense of resolving them.”

One UtahAmerican attorney, Jason Hardin, noted that the reasons behind the Crandall Canyon’s collapse may never be properly revealed.

“The geomechanics of coal mining under a mountain are extremely complex and difficult to assess,” he said.

“We have spent considerable time and effort attempting to determine what happened at the Crandall Canyon mine. And while we have learned from the accidents, we realise that no one may ever know what actually caused those accidents.”

According to the Associated Press, the settlement – the largest in Utah mining history – exceeded the terms met in the case regarding the Wilberg mine disaster of 1984, which occurred in the same Utah coal field. More than $US20 million was paid to the families of 27 victims.

In January, the family of one of the six miners killed in the initial collapse received a favourable judgment in a case against UAE, giving the family full benefits for the next six years.

A Utah Labor Commission administrative judge ordered Rockwood Casualty Insurance and Murray Energy division Genwal Resources to pay out $565 weekly for the next 312 weeks to the family of Juan Carlos Payan. The payments were retroactive to the date of the incident.

Kerry Allred, Manuel Sanchez, Louis Hernandez, Carlos Payan, Don Erickson and Brandon Phillips died in the initial incident. Gary Jensen, Brandon Kimber and Dale Ray Black were killed in the second collapse.

Crandall Canyon's co-owner, UtahAmerican Energy, is a Murray Energy subsidiary. The operation, also co-owned by Intermountain Power, has since been closed.

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