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One of the major workplace hazards that coal miners and other workers in the coal industry face is the development of black lung. What’s worse, coal companies are notorious for trying to block regulations meant to prevent black lung. In a bitter twist of fate, one of the most famous coal magnates the nation has filed for federal benefits for black lung disease after spending years trying to dismantle protections and benefits for his employees.

Black lung and benefits

Robert E. Murray was the president and CEO of Murray Energy, the largest private coal mining company in the U.S. Though it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019, it remained a powerful entity in the Ohio Valley area. Over a span of several decades, numerous employees filed lawsuits against Murray Energy after contracting deadly black lung disease.

Rather than implement steps to protect employees, the company, helmed by Mr. Murray, spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fight mining regulations. Although no one deserves to contract a debilitating disease, it is cruelly ironic that a man who devoted his career to chipping away at protections for black lung has now contracted it himself. Despite amassing extensive wealth as the head of a mining corporation, Mr. Murry has petitioned to receive federal benefits to compensate him for his black-lung-related expenses.

The right to seek compensation

Before he can receive compensation, the Department of Labor must determine a liable party. In his claim, Mr. Murray cited North American Coal Corporation as one possible culprit. He states that his years spent working underground in its coal mines may have caused his black lung. His own company, Murray Energy, has paid handsome settlements and awards to multiple employees for damages related to black lung and other workplace illnesses and injuries.

Granted, anyone who qualifies for federal benefits has the right to seek them. And anyone who suffers an illness or injury due to another party’s negligence has the right to seek compensation through a civil action.