Breathless and Burdened

Published — October 29, 2013

Key findings:

Introduction

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Jackson Kelly PLLC, long the go-to law firm for coal companies seeking to beat back miners’ claims for federal black lung benefits, has a decades-long record of:

  • Withholding key evidence. The firm has shielded reports generated by doctors of its choosing when even they found the miner had black lung. Of 15 cases reviewed in detail by the Center — dating from the 1980s to the present — the firm withheld reports in at least 11. Jackson Kelly has argued, sometimes successfully, that there is nothing improper about its approach, saying it submits evidence that support its case.
  • Presenting incomplete or potentially misleading evidence. The firm has allowed judges and consulting doctors to form opinions based on only the reports it chose to provide, even as it withheld other documents that cast doubt on what was in the record.
  • Conceding the case and avoiding disclosure. In the rare instances when a miner’s lawyer pushed for documents to be turned over and a judge commanded the firm to do so, Jackson Kelly, on behalf of its client, sometimes conceded the case, in theory rendering disclosure moot. This happened in six of the cases reviewed by the Center.

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