A trial team led by Rick Friedman obtained a $7.2 million verdict in Kentucky on behalf of a coal miner, James Couch, who is suffering from Black Lung disease. This is believed to be the first coal-dust respirator case to go to trial in the country. Couch filed suit against the manufacturer of the mask, Mine Safety Appliances, after being diagnosed with black lung.
Officials say several entities (including OSHA) called for the ban of these coal masks in the 1970’s, but Mine Safety Appliances continued to sell them. The plaintiff wore the masks for fifteen years, unaware that they were not effectively filtering the air he was breathing while in the mine.
During trial, Rick used his Rules of the Road method to identify important rules and principles that the company should have followed. Among these were: 1) A respirator manufacturing company should promptly inform users about the safety risks of its products that it learns about; 2) A manufacturer should not sell a respirator as providing protection against black lung when the respirator does not provide protection against black lung; and 3) Even if the government allows an unsafe practice, a respirator manufacturer should not engage in that unsafe practice.