A group of Boone County families has been awarded more than $500,000 to compensate them for property damaged by a mountaintop removal coal mine.
Sharon and Ralph Toler and 40 other families should receive the money because of mine blasting that damaged their homes, according to a Boone County jury.
The $517,000 verdict, handed down late last month, is believed the be the largest award in a strip mine blasting case to date, according to Charleston lawyer John Sutter, who represented the families.
Jurors did not force Burco Resources Corp. or Wind River Resources Corp. to pay punitive damages or damages for the mine allegedly being a nuisance to residents.
But Sutter said winning any damages in a case against a coal company was a victory, given the current backlash against environmentalists who want to curb mountaintop removal.
"Given the circumstances and atmosphere in Boone County and other coal counties, we were pleased with the general outcome," Sutter said. "The jury awarded almost 100 percent of the property damage claims."
Sutter and a group of other lawyers have filed similar cases on behalf of about 20 Lincoln County residents and 15 Mingo County residents who live near mountaintop removal mines operated by Pen Coal and Magnet Coal.
"With the prevalence of mountaintop removal, everybody is trying to protect the environment, and no one is protecting the people," Sutter said Thursday.
"People are not just going to stand around and watch their homes be destroyed, so I think you will be seeing more suits."