• Case Involving Miner’s Benefits Claim Not Precluded By Issues Decided In Widow’s Claim For Survivor’s Benefits
  • July 16, 2014
  • Law Firm: Sutherland Asbill Brennan LLP - Washington Office
  • Last week, the Fourth Circuit denied a coal company’s petition for review of a Benefits Review Board decision that affirmed a grant of living miner benefits to a former employee under the Black Lung Benefits Act. The company argued that the award should be vacated because the case was precluded by a previously adjudicated claim for survivor’s benefits by the miner’s widow, which was denied after a finding that the miner’s death was not caused by pneumoconiosis. The miner’s own case was pending at the time of his death, and was ultimately decided in his favor (finding his death was caused by pneumoconiosis) after his widow’s claim for survivor’s benefits was denied. The Fourth Circuit concluded that the miner’s case was not precluded by issues decided in the widow’s claim because the miner was not a party to his widow’s case, and thus the miner lacked the full and fair opportunity to litigate the issues for collateral estoppel purposes. The court recognized that the interests of the miner and the surviving widow were “plainly aligned” but that without something more, the company could not hold a non-party miner to the result reached in his widow’s claim.