Hugh Caperton has been battling Massey and now Alpha Natural Resources for 16 years.
Wall Street Journal Photo
Hugh Caperton has been battling Massey and now Alpha Natural Resources for 16 years.

GRUNDY, Va. — Attorneys for coal operator Hugh Caperton are thinking about another appeal after a Virginia jury found in favor of their client last Friday in his long battle against A.T. Massey Coal.

The jury awarded $4 million to Caperton’s Harman Mining Corp. and $1 million to Caperton himself. But Caperton’s attorney Bruce Stanley said the Buchanan County, Va., judge did not allow the jury to hear the entire evidence and that kept down the damages awarded.

“We believe there were constraints on the evidence that the jury was able to hear that affected this decision,” Stanley said. “We have every intention in going back and seeing if we can’t get that situation corrected.”

The dispute between Caperton and Massey began 16 years ago when Massey purchased Wellmore Coal Corp. Caperton had a contract with a Pittsburgh steel company to provide metallurgical coal through Wellmore Coal. But Massey President and CEO Don Blankenship shifted the contract to his mining operations in Boone County putting Caperton into bankruptcy.

The Virginia verdict is the third time Caperton has won the case but the damage amounts still fall short of what he’s been seeking.

“Hugh Caperton and his lawyers are bound and determined to see that Don Blankenship’s conduct, which three juries have said was improper, that that conduct is not rewarded by allowing them to hold on to money that they came by dishonestly,” Stanley said.

Caperton was seeking $90 million in compensatory damages in the latest trial. A Boone County jury awarded Harman Mining and Caperton $50 million in 2002 but that was overturned three times by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals that sent the case back to Virginia.

Alpha Natural Resources purchased Massey Energy three years ago and is now fighting the Caperton case. A spokesman said the jury’s award last Friday was consistent with the evidence. But Stanley said the jury should have been allowed to hear more evidence. He said they will make that attempt in post-trial motions but could also appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court.

“They (Virginia jury members) were denied the opportunity to know that long battle that everyone else is so well aware of,” Stanley said.

The trial in Grundy, Va. took five weeks to complete.

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  • Ron - from Morgantown

    Between Caperton and the Feds I doubt Blankenship will get a good nights sleep for the rest of his life. . A good book on this topic - "The Price of Justice " by Leamer