CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed against Peabody Energy and Arch Coal.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin ruled in favor of the companies Friday after they sought to have the class-action suit dismissed.
The United Mine Workers of America and eight active and retired miners filed the lawsuit back in October 2012.
The suit alleged the companies illegally shifted their obligations to workers and retirees to Patriot Coal. The suit claimed that such a move was illegal under federal law.
In Goodwin’s 13-page ruling, he said the actions by Peabody and Arch did not violate the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). He said the law doesn’t protect a pension fund’s financial stability.
In a statement released Friday, UMWA President Cecil Roberts said they are disappointed by the decision and they plan to appeal it.
“Our members who are at risk of losing the retiree health care benefits Peabody and Arch promised them clearly earned those benefits,” Roberts stated. “We will continue to fight for them in every possible venue until those benefits are secure.”
Roberts added that they “believe the decision fails to recognize the purpose of ERISA, which is to protect the benefits employees have earned.”
The lawsuit against Peabody and Arch was part of a larger effort to to protect pensions and health-care benefits for its miners at Patriot, who is currently undergoing financial reorganization in bankruptcy court.
Patriot filed for bankruptcy in July 2012 citing financial troubles. A bankruptcy judge allowed Patriot’s plan to cut many employee and retiree benefits, but the UMWA negotiated a new deal in which the company reinstated many of those benefits.
Since that time the UMWA has focused its fight on Peabody and Arch.