Jon Campisi Jan. 7, 2014, 7:11am


A western Pennsylvania coal miner claims in a recently filed civil suit that

he sustained facial fractures, including a broken jaw, when the brakes on the device in which he was riding in a mine failed, causing the plaintiff to careen into a pole.

Thomas Peters, who lives in Penfield, Clearfield County, filed suit last month in a Pennsylvania state court against Amfire Mining Co. and Alpha Natural Resources Inc. over injuries he says he sustained on Jan. 18, 2012, at the Dora #8 Deep Mine in Hamilton, Jefferson County.

Peters was operating a device called a mantrip downhill to enter the mine when the brakes malfunctioned, causing the Johnson four-wheeler maintrip to collide with a telephone pole at a high rate of speed, according to the civil complaint.

The defendants, who were responsible for the maintenance and care of the mantrip, are accused of negligence for failing to properly inspect, repair and maintain the device; failing to adequately warn the plaintiff of the faulty mantrip; failing to ensure that the brakes on the device were in working order; and allowing the mantrip to be maintained without a proper braking system.

As a result of the incident, Peters sustained a fractured jaw, extensive facial lacerations, a left-sided orbital fracture requiring surgery, a nasal fracture, eight rib fractures, a left elbow fracture requiring numerous surgical procedures, and tendon tears, the complaint states.

Peters says he experienced great pain and suffering, embarrassment, inconvenience and mental anguish as a result of his ordeal.

He also maintains that he suffered earnings losses due to his inability to work while recovering from his injuries, and that he suffered “substantial facial and bodily disfigurement.”

The complaint says that in the organization of a coal company, “it is incumbent upon the controlling entity of a mine to ensure that all persons working in or about its premises or mine are provided a safe place to work free from hazards.”

“Defendant Alpha Natural Resources, Inc. negligently failed to put in place any standardized operating and safety procedures for the Dore #8 Deep Mine and/or negligently failed to monitor Defendant AMFIRE Mining Company, LLC’s compliance with standardized operating and safety policies and training for the Dore #8 Deep Mine,” the complaint states.

On Monday, attorneys Michael P. Leahey and Daniel R. Michelmore, of the Pittsburgh firm Jackson Kelly, who represent the two defendants, filed a removal notice with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania seeking to have a federal judge take up jurisdiction over the litigation.

The defense lawyers wrote that they believe the amount in controversy in the case to exceed $75,000, a fact that’s supported by the plaintiff’s counsel’s pre-suit demand to the defendants of $2,750,000.

The $75,000 figure would trigger federal court oversight.

Peters is being represented by Pittsburgh attorney Julie Wieczorek Fritsch of Rudberg Law Offices, who initially filed suit on behalf of her client in early December at the Jefferson County Court of Common Pleas.

 

The federal case number is 2:14-cv-00021-DSC.

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