The Times West Virginian

Headline News

August 22, 2013

Appeals court: Peabody liable for retiree benefits

Reverses ruling of bankruptcy judge

ST. LOUIS — Coal producer Peabody Energy Corp. remains obligated to continue health-care benefits for some 3,100 retirees of one of the company’s former holdings, an appeals court ruled Wednesday in reversing a bankruptcy judge’s absolving Peabody of that tab.

The three-judge 8th U.S. Court of Appeals’ bankruptcy panel overturned U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States’ May ruling, which affected the largely Midwestern retirees of Heritage Coal Co. and was linked to the bankruptcy of Patriot Coal Corp., which Peabody also spun off in 2007.

Patriot earlier this year sued Peabody, seeking to ensure Peabody didn’t try to use the bankruptcy to avoid the debated health-care obligations to the retirees whose future benefits wouldn’t be part of the package Patriot proposed to the United Mine Workers of America union.

Surratt-States sided with Peabody, only to be reversed Wednesday.

“Akin to a once amicable divorce gone awry, the parties here disagree about the nature of their dissolution agreement after one of them has experienced a change in circumstances,” the appeals court judges wrote in ruling against Peabody. “We disagree with the bankruptcy court that only Heritage is liable for the benefits; both parties are liable.”

Peabody’s next move was not immediately clear. Messages were left Wednesday with the company, the world’s biggest private-sector coal producer.

“This is a bright ray of good news in what has been a long, dreary period for the retirees, their dependents and widows who have been desperately worried about what’s going to happen to their health care,” Cecil Roberts, international president of the miners’ union, said in a statement.

“Peabody has spent years trying to get rid of its obligations to the thousands of retirees who made it the richest coal company in the world,” he added. “This decision foils part of that plan. And it makes us even more determined to keep fighting to make sure the company lives up to its entire obligation to these miners.”

Arguments between Patriot and Peabody over the benefits were part of a weeklong April hearing over Patriot’s efforts to reorganize in bankruptcy. Surratt-States later ruled that Patriot could abandon its collective-bargaining agreements with the union and make its own cuts to wages and benefits.

But Patriot and the union continued bargaining to softened the blow with a deal ratified last Friday by some 85 percent of the 1,800 current or laid-off Patriot workers in West Virginia and Kentucky who were eligible to vote on it.  

On Tuesday, Surratt-States gave Patriot the go-ahead to put in place the agreement, which restores most wage cuts Patriot had sought, maintains pension benefits for thousands of retirees, and allows active employees to continue earning pension credit.

 

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Solemn tributes mark Boston Marathon bombing anniversary

    Survivors, first responders and relatives of those killed in the Boston Marathon bombing marked the anniversary Tuesday with tributes that combined sorrow over the loss of innocent victims with pride over the city’s resilience in the face of a terror attack.

    April 16, 2014

  • Questions linger year after Boston Marathon bombs

    A surveillance video shows a man prosecutors say is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev placing a bomb near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, just yards from where an 8-year-old boy was killed when it exploded.

    April 15, 2014

  • Little sign of progress as Obama, Putin speak

    Speaking for the first time in more than two weeks, President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin showed little sign of agreement Monday, with the U.S. leader urging pro-Russian forces to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine and Putin denying that Moscow was interfering in the region.

    April 15, 2014

  • 3 dead after suburban Kansas City shooting

    A man opened fire outside a Jewish community center on Sunday, killing two people before driving over to a retirement community a few blocks away and killing someone else, authorities said.

    April 14, 2014

  • Couple: Truck was on fire before deadly bus crash

    A couple said a FedEx tractor-trailer was already on fire when it careened across a median, sideswiped their car and slammed into a bus carrying high school students, adding a new twist to the investigation of a crash that killed 10 people.
    Initial reports by police indicated the truck swerved to avoid a sedan that was traveling in the same direction in this town about 100 miles north of Sacramento, then went across the median. There was no mention of the truck being on fire.

    April 13, 2014

  • ‘Obamacare’ under attack as conservatives eye 2016

    Republicans eyeing the 2016 White House race battered President Barack Obama’s health care law and nicked each other Saturday, auditioning before a high-profile gathering of conservatives that some political veterans said marked the campaign’s unofficial start.

    April 13, 2014

  • Finance officials: Global economy turns the corner

    The world’s top finance officials expressed confidence Saturday that the global economy finally has turned the corner to stronger growth. This time, they may be right.
    Despite challenges that include market jitters about the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying slowdown and global tensions over Ukraine, policymakers said they believe there is a foundation for sustained growth that can provide jobs for the millions of people still looking for work five years after the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

    April 13, 2014

  • There’s a new ‘face,’ but old problems for health care law

    Abruptly on the spot as the new face of “Obamacare,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell faces steep challenges, both logistical and political.
    Burwell, until now White House budget director, was named by President Barack Obama on Friday to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who oversaw the messy rollout of the health care overhaul.

    April 12, 2014

  • Australia leader confident sounds are from Flight 370

    With the Malaysian jetliner mystery now five weeks old, officials have narrowed the search zone for the missing plane and are “very confident” the underwater signals they have heard are from its black box, Australia’s prime minister said Friday.
    At the same time, however, those electronic signals are fading, Tony Abbott added.

    April 12, 2014

  • Dreams dashed in fatal bus crash

    It was a busload of opportunity: young, low-income, motivated students, destined to become the first in their families to go to college, journeying from the concrete sprawl of Los Angeles to a remote redwood campus 650 miles north.
    Those dreams shattered for some Thursday in an explosive freeway collision that left 10 dead — students, chaperones and both drivers — and dozens hospitalized.

    April 12, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads