Virginia Judge Orders New Damages Trial in Caperton Massey Case

The original case — Caperton v. A.T. Massey — was filed in 1998 in Boone County, West Virginia.

Harman Mining Company president Hugh Caperton claimed that Massey — then headed by Donald Blankenship — fraudulently cancelled a coal supply contract with Harman, resulting in the company going out of business.

massey A jury found in favor of Caperton and awarded him $50 million. That was the first of many court decisions.

And 17 years later, it’s still not over.

The case has taken many appellate detours, including one to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Blankenship has since been criminally charged for crimes related to the Upper Big Branch mining disaster.

Caperton sits in Beckley, West Virginia, waiting for justice as the case winds its way, now through the Virginia courts.

Last year, a jury in Virginia again found for Caperton, but awarded him and his companies only $5 million.

Caperton’s attorneys appealed that award to the trial judge.

And this week, the judge, Henry Vanover, sitting in Clintwood, Virginia, in a 15-page decision, ordered a new trial on damages.

At the Virginia trial, Caperton claimed more than $40 million in damages and presented evidence to back up his claim.

Attorneys for Massey said that Caperton didn’t deserve anything.

But toward the end of the trial, in closing arguments, sensing that the jury might come down in favor of Caperton, Massey’s attorneys argued– well, if you are going to award Caperton anything, $5 million might be a number to consider.

“During the twenty one days that the parties presented evidence, the parties had ample opportunity to present expert testimony as to how the plaintiffs might conceivable incur $5 million in damages,” Judge Vanover wrote. “Yet for 21 days, Massey vigorously insisted that plaintiffs suffered no damages because the Harman companies were ‘doomed to fail.” For Massey to suddenly change its position in the final moments of closing arguments and proffer the $5 million figure is nothing short of deliberate.”

Judge Vanover concluded that “the 5 million dollar statement” — as he called it — was “so prejudicial that no curative action taken by this Court could have purged the jury of the harm.”

“The probable, indeed manifest effect, of this statement was to inflame the passions of the jury,” Judge Vanover wrote.

Bruce Stanley, one of Caperton’s lawyers, said it was the third jury to find that what Massey did to Caperton and his companies was wrong.

“We agree with the jury’s finding on liability,” Stanley said. “Unfortunately, in measuring the value of that wrong they were improperly influenced. Hopefully, we will now get a jury that can decide the damages in this case based solely on the evidence it hears.”

Copyright © Corporate Crime Reporter
In Print 48 Weeks A Year

Built on Notes Blog Core
Powered by WordPress