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Fox v. Elk Run Coal Co.

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20007
Nos. 12-2387, -2402, (4th Cir., 01/03/2014)

The Fourth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision dismissing a widow's claim that a coal company committed fraud on the court and thereby deprived her husband, a coal miner, of nearly a decade of benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA). Because the coal company had admitted liability for the miner's 2006 claim, the Benefits Review Board held that he was entitled to benefits beginning in June 2006. The widow, however, alleged that the judgment was fraudulently procured because, although the company knew that certain reports diagnosed her husband with pneumoconiosis, commonly known as black lung disease, the company intentionally failed to disclose those reports to its own experts and later relied on the conclusions of those experts to controvert the miner's 1999 claim that he had pneumoconiosis. But the coal company's conduct, while hardly admirable, was not sufficiently egregious to meet the high bar for a claim of fraud on the court because it did not amount to an intentional design aimed at undermining the integrity of the adjudicative process under the BLBA.