Coal companies to compensate widows

Ohio residents may be interested in a recent turn of events for two widows of coal miners. Their spouses' deaths were related to toxic materials breathed in during coal mining work. These men were never compensated during their lifetimes. However, a change due to the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has brought a 1978 provision for dependent compensation back into effect. The Black Lung Benefits Act was amended then to provide benefits for the surviving family members of miners who died from pneumoconiosis. The provision was removed in 1981, but new hope for survivors is possible based on this case.

The widows' original cases against their husbands' respective companies were lost based on the changes in the survivors' laws. When the new case was brought, consolidating the women's interests into a single court review, the former employers argued that res judicata prevented a new consideration. However, the judge representing a three-member panel indicated that while there wasn't new evidence, the claims relied on different facts than in the initial action.

The miners were eligible for BLBA benefits when they died. The disease is estimated to take the lives of approximately 1,500 former coal miners each year. Disability or death from the disease can leave a family in a devastating situation, lacking support and hope. However, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has now made it possible for dependents to receive these benefits to help with the costs associated with their losses.

If a loved one has died as a result of black lung disease, a legal professional may be able to help with obtaining appropriate benefits for survivors.

Source: Courthouse News, "Coal Companies Nailed for Black Lung Benefits", Sam Reynolds, July 09, 2013

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