The judge’s approval in a Sunday court filing denied the Justice coal companies’ request for a new trial, finding in part they were trying to relitigate whether employees were terminated or just had their hours reduced and dismissing their assertion they were precluded from objecting to jury instructions.

Following an August 2022 jury trial finding in favor of the former employee, the court’s 2023 judgment was against Tams Management, Inc., Pay Car Mining, Inc., Bluestone Industries, Inc., Bluestone Resources, Inc., Bluestone Coal Corporation. The plaintiff, Jules Gautier, alleged the companies failed to provide 60-day notice required by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act before October 2019 layoffs at the Burke Mountain Mine Complex in McDowell County. United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia Judge Frank Volk approved a $110,992 award for statutory attorney fee coverage, $45,593 in expenses to Charleston-based nonprofit legal services firm Mountain State Justice, Inc. and Beckley-based labor and employment law firm Petsonk PLLC and $15,000 to Gautier as a class representative service fee.

Sam Petsonk of Petsonk PLLC and Bren Pomponio of Mountain State Justice, Gautier’s counsel, called the class-action jury verdict “an important reminder that our civil justice system can hold the most powerful members of our society accountable” in a statement Monday.

“Federal laws like the WARN Act make it harder for big corporations to abandon our communities without a safety net or a transition,” Petsonk and Pomponio said. “We hope this result gives these miners and local communities in McDowell County a much-needed lifeline.” The Governor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment. The defendants’ Roanoke, Virginia-based counsel, Ronald Hatfield Jr., did not respond to a request for comment. Justice pledged that he would put his two adult children in charge of his family’s business operations upon taking office in 2017. The governor has suggested in some court proceedings and interviews since taking office that he remains familiar with his coal companies’ operations.

Justice’s coal companies have a history of getting in trouble for not providing for their current and retired employees. The companies have allowed intermittent lapses in prescription drug coverage that have endangered the health of retirees and their dependents in recent years.

Read More