Ruling to help coal miners with black lung receive workers' comp.

By: Jerrika Insco Email
By: Jerrika Insco Email

The Kentucky Supreme Court says legislators need to amend a state law that violates the rights of coal miners, specifically miners suffering from black lung disease.

Officials say the problem with the law is it discriminates against coal miners.

The unconstitutional procedures date back to 1996.

Each year nearly 400 coal miners die from black lung disease.

Black lung, a disease caused by years of inhaling black dust, affects nearly three percent of coal miners.

Since 1996 workers' compensation for this disease has been hard to come by for coal miners in Kentucky.

"All coal miners should be covered 100%. All of them working in the coal mine outside and inside," said Clinton Kliburn, a retired coal miner with black lung.

Less than 300 coal miners have received workers' compensation since 2002.

"It is much more difficult for a coal miner to get compensation for pneumoconiosis than it is for any other members of the same class, and these people have pneumoconiosis. It is the same disease," said Will T. Scott, Kentucky Supreme Court Justice.

A ruling by the Kentucky Supreme Court just last week is trying to change that.

Officials say the big issue is that coal miners are not being treated equally and deserve the same rights as everyone else.

"You created one group that you made it more difficult for them to be compensated than you did another group, and that's unconstitutional due process violations," said McKinley Morgan, the attorney.

Only coal miners have to see a panel of three doctors to prove they have black lung, which is a process no one else has to go through.

"We didn't think it was fair to treat the same group of sick people differently," said Justice Scott.

Their job on the state Supreme Court is to make sure all laws abide by the Constitution.

The stage of black lung that each coal miner is suffering from determines the amount of worker's compensation he or she receives.

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