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Davis files dissent in Massey Energy shareholder case

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West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis filed a strongly worded dissent this week in the case preventing shareholders of the former Massey Energy from pursuing legal action against that company's board of directors.

"(T)he Officers and Board of Directors of Massey Energy Company1 have demonstrated nothing but blatant disregard for mine safety standards, apathetic indifference for its stipulated settlement with Manville through which the Massey Board agreed to address and remedy this misconduct, and flagrant disrespect for the circuit court's order approving and memorializing the parties' agreement and the obligations of the Massey Board thereunder," Davis wrote in her five-page dissent in the case Manville Personal Injury Settlement Fund v. Don L. Blankenship et al.

The court had earlier ruled that former Massey shareholders could bring a derivative action to enforce an earlier settlement because they lost their rights to do so following the company's acquisition by Alpha Natural Resources.

"Two years later, the devil-may-care attitude exhibited by the Massey Board towards its obligation to implement mine safety standards became abundantly apparent when 29 coal miners died in Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine," Davis wrote. "Countless other West Virginia coal miners undoubtedly also have been injured and endangered by the Massey Board's failure to do what it said it would do, what it has been told by the circuit court to do, and what it is required to do under mine safety laws.

"Manville, in repeated attempts to hold the Massey Board accountable for its apparent abhorrence of mine safety regulations, again seeks redress through the courts of this State to compel the Massey Board to protect the coal miners employed at Massey's mines. Regretfully, however, the majority's decision in this case not only forgives the Massey Board for its misdeeds, but also fails to hold accountable those individuals whose callousness cost 29 miners their lives–men who went to work one day at the Upper Big Branch Mine and who were prevented from returning home to the families waiting for them. …

"Thirteen individuals, who held the fate of countless miners in their hands, can no longer be held accountable for their complacency with their status quo of evading compliance with mine safety regulations. This result is not fair, and it is not the right thing to do. Therefore, I respectfully, and vehemently, dissent."