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Island Creek Coal Co. v. Rodgers

Kentucky Court of Appeals
644 S.W.2d 339 (Ky. App. 1982)


Facts

In 1966, Jewell and Elsie Rodgers (plaintiffs) bought a home in a subdivision on top of a diamond mine owned by Island Creek Coal Company (defendant). Island Creek had severed the coal from the surface estate in 1905, when the surface consisted of only woodlands. Island Creek began mining operations in 1948. In 1971, Island Creek ceased operations directly under the Rodgerses’ home. However, Cimarron Coal Corporation (defendant) continued strip mining under land within 5,600 to 23,000 feet of the home. In 1977, movement of the land caused damage to the Rodgerses’ home. Cimarron had been blasting in its mine around the time of the movement. The Rodgerses sued Island Creek and Cimarron on a theory of strict liability. Cimarron argued that its mining was too remote to cause damage to the home. Rather, Cimarron argued, Island Creek’s negligent abandonment of its mine caused the damage. Island Creek argued that it did not owe a duty to the Rodgerses, because the severance of the coal occurred when there was no prospect of residences on the surface. The jury returned a verdict for the Rodgerses, splitting damages evenly between Island Creek and Cimarron. Island Creek appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McDonald, J.)

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