Miner Wins $22M Verdict Against Mine

Miner Wins $22M Verdict Against Mine

A miner who suffered a severe spinal cord injury when a boulder fell on a vehicle he was operating in 2002 has won a $22 million jury verdict in a lawsuit against the mine and its operators.

The seven jurors found that Les Butts deserves $18 million, and his two sons deserve $2 million each for the injuries, and the losses they have incurred as a result.

Verdict Cut Down by Wyoming Law

“Most people are not aware that you cannot sue your employer in Wyoming,” said one of Butts’ attorneys, Jim Fitzgerald.

Though the jury found that the family deserved $22 million, the family will only be able to recover 43 percent of that – $9.46 million – because Butts’ employer, Thunder Basin Mine is immune to lawsuits against it by its workers because it contributes to Wyoming’s workers’ compensation program. It was found to be 57 percent liable for the accident, so Butts will only collect from the two others named in the suit – the mine’s manager, Kevin Hampleman, and safety manager, Michael Hannifan.

“It’s the entire company that should be held accountable,” said defense attorney Ken Lyman. “It’s simply not fair in accordance with the law to lay all the legal blame on these two individuals.”

Placing the Blame

According to the lawsuit, Hampleman and Hannifan ignored working conditions at the mine that they knew to be dangerous, failing to provide a safe working environment.

The jury determined that Thunder Basin Mine was 57 percent responsible for the accident, while Hampleman bore 18 percent of the blame and Hannifan bore 25 percent.

Hampleman will have to pay $3.96 million, and Hannifan will have to pay $5.5 million for a total of $9.46 million.

As a result of the accident, Butts suffers from paralysis and chronic pain.

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