Winds of Change Newsletter, February 2007 See sidebar for table of contents
Holding King Coal Accountable - It CAN Be Done
We would like to thank you all for your prayers and support during the last 2 and 3/4 years. During our trial it really meant so much to see our family and friends there in the courtroom with us. Believe me, being sued by one of the largest companies in the United States would put you under so much stress and strain that you start to feel like Job.
Even though we won our case in court, and the jurors ruled in our favor, our battle is still not over. We still have the mess on Pocahontas property above our house and property in Straight Fork (the next Buffalo Creek). This area is so bad that the coal company that is working on the King Coal Highway has called in to the WV Division of Forestry and the WV Department of Environmental Protection complaining about the condition also.
The WV Division of Forestry has the condition of this hollow written up as:
1. Endangering human life.
According to an e-mail brought to light during the discovery phase of this lawsuit, my phone calls to the DEP requesting help were looked upon as "stirring up trouble" for Pocahontas Land and their lessees. While on the witness stand I (Barbara) was also questioned about going before the Mingo County Commission and requesting help. I wonder why exercising your civil rights and trying to protect your family and property is considered to be "stirring up trouble" to these big corporate conglomerates. Below is a copy of the newspaper article telling the story of where we prevailed over Pocahontas Land Company, with quotes from the jurys decision.
We will know in March if they are going to appeal. Every one pray that we make the right decision, by taking it to the Supreme Court or settling if it comes to this.
Barbara & Roby Chafin, Meador, Mingo County, WV
by Audrey Carter, Williamson Daily News, Dec. 13, 2007
WILLIAMSON - A six-person jury has awarded a Meador couple punitive and compensatory damages after finding that a Virginia-based land company involved in a property dispute with the couple acted with gross fraud, malice, oppression, wanton, willful and reckless conduct, and/or criminal indifference.
The conflict, which had been ongoing for more than two years, involved an approximate 1/2 acre of land located at Mate Creek and Double Camp Fork in the Magnolia district. The civil trial lasted four days in the case which was styled Pocahontas Land Corporation versus Roby and Barbara Chafin.
During court proceedings it was determined that the land in question had been in the Chafins family since 1945.
Following the trial, the jury found that Pocahontas Land Corporation had not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the land company was the owner of record of the disputed land.
However, the jury found that Roby and Barbara
Chafin had established that their deed and the survey done by John Messerian demonstrated they were the owners of the land.
In fact, the jury found they had established adverse possession of the property at issue by clear and convincing evidence.
The jurors also found that Pocahontas Land had trespassed and allowed others to trespass on the land belonging to the Chafins.
Because of this finding, the jury awarded the couple $125,000 in compensatory damages.
This compensation was for the loss of use of the property, including any and all annoyances, inconvenience or aggravation suffered by the couple.
In addition, the couple was awarded $75,000 in punitive damages because the jurors felt that the land company had acted with gross fraud, malice, oppression, wanton, willful and/or reckless conduct or criminal indifference to civil obligations affecting the Chafins rights.