Details of the settlements were kept secret and are subject to confidentiality agreements, including the amount to be paid to each family. Most believe the settlements will exceed the $3 million offered to families by Massey in the weeks after the explosion, reports Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette. West Virginia law sets a tough standard for successfully suing employers over workplace deaths, but a "trial in the Upper Big Branch disaster -- which government investigators have blamed on Massey's culture of deliberately evading safety standards -- could have carried serious risks of punitive damages. And a settlement helps Alpha in its continuing efforts to put behind it Massey's history of environmental and workplace disasters," Ward writes.
The lawyer for two of the families, Rachel Moreland, called the settlements "a milestone for our clients," and said it provides a small measure of closure. Alpha officials told Ward they were not commenting out of respect for the families. At least eight families settled with Massey before Alpha's buyout; another three settled with Alpha by the time the company reached a $209.5 million deal with U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin to avoid criminal prosecution for the company. Goodwin has said his criminal investigation of Massey employees who may have committed crimes or played a role in the disaster is continuing. (Read more)