All of the plaintiffs and defendants in the civil lawsuits stemming from the August 2007 accidents at Genwal Resource, Inc.'s Crandall Canyon Mine have reached a comprehensive settlement for a confidential amount. The settlement culminates almost a year of negotiations and represents a monumental success, in that it brought numerous and wide-ranging interests together: sixteen (16) groups of plaintiffs, seven (7) defendants (five companies and two public entities), and six (6) insurance companies. "I congratulate the focused, dedicated efforts of the many individuals, attorneys, company managers and entities involved in the settlement negotiations.
"Those efforts do justice to the heroism of the rescuers following the Aug. 6 accident," said Kevin N. Anderson, attorney for UtahAmerican Energy, Inc., parent company of the mine operator, Genwal Resources, Inc. The settlement is a recognition of factual complexity and uncertainty, challenging issues of proof, novel questions of law, and the time and expense it would take to resolve them. "The geomechanics of coal mining under a mountain are extremely complex and difficult to assess.
"We have spent considerable time and effort attempting to determine what happened at the Crandall Canyon Mine. And while we have learned from the accidents, we realize that no one may ever know what actually caused those accidents," said Jason W. Hardin, another attorney for UtahAmerican.
"Rather than engaging in lengthy, expensive, and unpredictable litigation, the parties decided to work together toward an amicable, reasonable settlement to put these matters in the past, provide for the victims' and their families' futures, and allow all concerned to move forward. The settlement comes less than two years after the accidents. Such tort claims, however, often take many years to settle. For instance, the Quecreek Mine disaster in Pennsylvania occurred on July 24, 2002 and was much less complex than the Crandall Canyon Mine accidents. Those claims just settled this past March, almost seven years later.
"We live in a time of waning confidence in just about everything 'economic.' Businesses, insurance companies, the government, and lawyers are often seen as the cause of our problems, not the solution. But this settlement, and especially the fact that it was reached so quickly by so many, should give everyone hope that the system can and does work, often on a grand scale in extremely complicated situations," said Hardin.
According to the parties, the settlement brought numerous and widely varying interests together. The parties expressed hope that the settlement would bring a measure of closure and a sense of healing to the families of those who were lost or injured, current and former company employees, company management, the residents of Carbon and Emery counties, and the coal mining industry in general.
Ultimately, the plaintiffs, the defendants, and their insurers recognized the extent of factual complexities and novel questions of law, and the time and expense of resolving them.
Rather than engaging in lengthy, expensive, and unpredictable litigation, the parties decided to work together toward an amicable, reasonable settlement to put these matters in the past, provide for the victims' and their families' futures, and allow all concerned to move forward.
The parties succeeded in doing so, and the resolution reflects the sincere concerns and very best efforts of everyone involved.