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Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., Inc.

United States Supreme Court
556 US 868 (2009)


Facts

Hugh Caperton, Harman Development Corp., Harman Mining Corp., and Sovereign Coal Sales (plaintiffs) sued A.T. Massey Coal Co., Inc. (Massey) (defendant) in West Virginia state court for fraudulent misrepresentation, concealment, and tortious interference with contractual relations. A jury found Massey liable and awarded plaintiffs $50 million. Massey planned to appeal the verdict. Don Blankenship was Massey’s chairman, CEO and president. After the verdict but before the appeal was heard, West Virginia held its 2004 judicial elections. Blankenship supported a challenger to Justice McGraw, Brent Benjamin. Blankenship donated the maximum amount to Benjamin’s campaign, and donated $2.5 million to a 527 organization that supported Benjamin. Blankenship also spent $500,000 individually on direct mailings and letters in support of Benjamin. Blankenship donated more than all other supporters of Benjamin combined. In total, Blankenship spent $1 million more than the total amount spent by the campaign committees of both candidates combined. Benjamin won the election in a close race. The West Virginia Supreme Court then heard Massey’s appeal. Plaintiffs requested that Benjamin recuse himself but he declined. The court reversed the $50 million verdict against Massey. Plaintiffs sought rehearing, and again sought Benjamin’s recusal. The court granted rehearing and in April 2008, the divided court again reversed the jury verdict in a 3-2 decision.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)

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Dissent (Roberts, J.)

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