"If any proposals are made to the families, those families will be given a full opportunity to review those proposals, with a lawyer of their choosing," said the April 15, 2010, statement. "To the extent settlements are reached, it is the company's desire that the families --- and not personal injury lawyers -- receive the money.
"Unfortunately, personal injury lawyers frequently take 30 to 40 percent of any settlement received by a family," the statement said. "The company hopes such a result can be avoided in this circumstance."
Word of the new lawsuit was revealed Thursday in a financial disclosure that Alpha Natural Resources filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Alpha said it had reached settlements with all 29 families of miners who died, but that two families had "recently withdrawn their prior agreements to settle" and that negotiations were ongoing in those cases.
The company also reported that one of the families had filed a class action "purportedly on behalf of the families that settled their claims prior to the mediation, alleging fraudulent inducements into a contract," apparently referring to the lawsuit filed on April 5, 2012, on behalf of the Willingham family by Beckley lawyer Randolph McGraw.
Alpha spokesman Ted Pile did not respond Friday to a request for comment beyond what the company said in its SEC filing.
In the lawsuit, McGraw recounted a wide variety of evidence he says indicts "Massey Energy Company's lawless operations, which have placed production ahead of safety [and] have claimed the lives of far too many West Virginia miners."
Among other things, the lawsuit cites U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration citations and federal criminal charges brought after the deaths of two miners in the January 2006 fire at Massey's Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine in Logan County, Massey's long list of other mining deaths and safety violations, and specific instances where Massey managers at Upper Big Branch told miners to ignore safety problems and keep coal production moving.
"Some of the information which the defendants withheld was the fact that they and/or their companies had engaged in specific criminal conduct, and committed criminal activity," the lawsuit alleges. "While the company and/or individuals named in this complaint possessed this specific information and knowledge, they did not relay on to plaintiffs any of the specific facts that would have sufficiently informed the plaintiffs of the circumstances that existed at the time of this explosion, and later deaths of their loved ones.
"Based upon this information and belief, the plaintiffs believe that a fraud was committed upon them, thus inducing them into an early settlement agreement that has proven to be insufficient to cover their loss and damages in this matter," the lawsuit says.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.