The sole survivor of the Darby Mine explosion and some widows of the men who died in the blast last May were in court Thursday. Attorneys for the Mine Operator Ralph Napier and coal owners Jericol Mining asked a judge to dismiss them from that lawsuit saying they aren't liable.
Attorneys for the sole survivor and the widows are suing several companies they claim caused the wrongful deaths of those five men killed in the Harlan County mine blast last year. They admit one thing that's really hurting their case, worker's comp statutes.
Paul Ledford managed to survive the explosion at Kentucky Darby Mine Number One but five men lost their lives in the May 2006 blast. Now Ledford and four of the wives left behind are suing everyone they felt were negligent. The mine operator, Kentucky Darby LLC, has already been dismissed from the suit and now attorneys for Jericol Mining say they want off the hook because they were contractors and workers compensation rules protect them from liability. The widow's attorneys say Jericol owned the coal and gave the miners faulty safety training which makes them liable.
The judge didn't let Jericol Mining out of the lawsuit yet. He says both sides need to prepare more information to argue their cases and then he'll decide. His remarks weren't encouraging for the widows and sole survivor Paul Ledford looking on.
"Up the ladder a defense for them, the worker's comp status is going to be hard for you to overcome," said Russell Alred, Harlan County Circuit Judge.