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Buffalo Creek Disaster

In: Business and Management

Submitted By DrDave64
Words 1185
Pages 5
In reading part two of the text, we see that the parent company is attempting to ratchet up the pressure on the plaintiffs’ attorneys in an attempt to thwart their case. Pittston’s attorneys attempt to deny access to their insurance documents, which later in the case shows that the insurance company had reservations about covering possible liability for its’ Buffalo Creek Operations. Pittston’s attorneys the attempt the old “divide and conquer” move, where it pits two of the most labor intensive aspects of discovery (depositions both of the plaintiffs and Pittston execs). The deposition of the plaintiffs required actual depositions in one city and physical examinations/testing in another. These two simultaneous events were meant to divide the manpower of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, and through the rigors of the examinations/testing, demoralize the plaintiffs. This extremely cumbersome for the attorneys, it was also for the plaintiffs. However, in a stroke of good fortune, the judge awards the plaintiffs mileage and a stipend for food, etc…and orders Pittson to pay for their hotel rooms. In another stroke of good fortune, the depositions depict the horror and terror survivors felt during the disaster. Each successive deposition is more graphic than the next. This is as upsetting for the plaintiffs to recall, as it is for opposing counsel to hear and record. But, as a matter of official record, these horrific tales lend credence to the mental anguish claims, but also gives the media access to first-hand accounts of the disaster. It is during the deposition of the Pittston execs that holes begin to be poked in their previous testimony. During depositions it is discovered that Pittston was the sole owner of Buffalo Creek Mining. That many of the so called corporate meeting minutes had been faked to appear like they had actually taken place. It is also learned that execs also knew in advance that the dams on the creek were not in compliance with Federal Law, and that the company had been fined numerous times for them. However, as many of Pittstons’ execs were also on the regulatory board responsible for enactment and enforcement of said laws, the fines went unpaid. It is also discovered that county, and in some instances state, governments were less than supporting of regulators efforts/enforcement as they were more than happy to trade jobs for safety. A particularly damning revelation was an internal document that warned of impending disaster in the Buffalo Creek Area, and other similar sites, due to the construction of the dams and high water levels. In the haste of corporate cover-up, and the drive to keep production numbers high, this document was suppressed as to not raise alarm or to tip off employees that the dams were suspect, and danger was eminent. One final “death nail” came during Pittston’s attorney repeated attempts to slow the process of the case and further stall the progress of the case. The judge ruled that the case was to go to trial just five months after initial depositions were completed. This was another fortunate boon for the plaintiffs. It was not so good for the defense. During the proceedings another stroke of good fortune has come the plaintiffs’ way. The judge has ruled that these proceedings are “open” and that the press may have access to and report on the proceedings. This brings up an interesting point, the “court of public opinion”. Throughout the remainder of the case, the plaintiffs’ attorneys are fortunate that the media paints Pittston, et al. as the villains in this case. Each attempt Pittston makes to thwart the efforts of the plaintiffs’ attorneys is reported, and with each successive negative ruling against Pittston, the headlines paint the picture of corporate negligence, arrogance and greed. In reading part three of the text, we see that Pittston is still attempting to turn up the heat on our attorneys. This time they have appealed to the West Virginia Bar in an attempt to have pur group removed from the plaintiffs case, and local attorneys put in their place. This would no doubt allow Pittston to settle this case for only pennies on the dollar. As fate would have it, legal precedence was on the plaintiffs side, and the case was dismissed. In keeping with their mantra of “attacking on all fronts”, Pittston’s stall techniques have put our attorneys close to Virginia’s two year statute of limitations on these claims. After a series of meetings, the plaintiffs give our attorneys the authority to negotiate potential settlement of the case. With that, the first settlement proposal is drafted and sent to Pittston’s attorney. The initial settlement figure for the now 600 plaintiffs was set at $32.5 million dollars. Depositions of Pittston’s key management personnel continue. It is during the depositions that vital evidence of negligence is uncovered, and that the potential for similar disasters was very real indeed. As more and more damning evidence is uncovered, serious settlement negotiations were about to begin. In a dooming setback for Pittston, their attempts to have the mental anguish portion of the case thrown out, or at least minimized by the testimony of their experts, the court sides with the experts brought forth by the prosecution. The plaintiffs will received damages for mental anguish. After losing on the mental anguish front, the defense ratchets up settlement talks. They begin by counter-proposing a low ball figure of $2.8 million. After much bantering about, they raise their offer to $3 million. Our attorneys decide to mull over this offer and agree to meet again in a few days. Meanwhile, Pittston attempts one more legal maneuver and attempts to eliminate a group of plaintiffs they are calling “absent”. Another trip to the court for pleadings, and our plaintiffs are allowed to remain with our others in our suit. As the trial date approaches, serious attempts at settlement are made by Pittston. Many trips back and forth to Washington are made, numbers are thrown about. Every move has a counter move, and every offer a counter offer. As the plaintiffs original request of $65 million, and the counter offer from the defense at $2.8 million, are obliterated; arrival at palatable settlement approaches. During these negotiations unexpected pressure, from within our own law firm to settle, begin in earnest. Each new counter must be presented and reviewed before our counter can be presented. The constant banter back and forth has its’ desired effect. Pittston finally brings an offer that is acceptable to our principals. The final offer of $13.5 million is accepted by our firm, and by our plaintiffs. This is a great victory for the plaintiffs, the firm and for justice as a whole. During our out briefs, we discover that we may have sold ourselves short. Pittstons’ defense attorneys were preparing to defend itself against a murder trial. Pittston estimated that they would be unable to whether a prolonged defense, as it had estimated that each case would be tried separately and awards assigned accordingly. In light of public sentiment, they would have settled for much more.…...

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