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Meds in hand

Pinkey Mullens, 68, of Glen Fork gathers his 10 medicine bottles at the dining room table of his Wyoming County home. Mullens is one of many retired coal miners who say that coal companies owned by Gov. Jim Justice have repeatedly cut their prescription drug coverage.

An insurance company and a company consisting of Gov. Jim Justice and his adult children are eyeing a settlement of the former’s federal lawsuit alleging that the latter owes $166,666 for claims that it submitted for coverage under workers’ compensation and employers’ liability insurance policies.

New York-based Starr Indemnity & Liability Co. and the Justice Family Group LLC are working toward a settlement of the lawsuit filed in May in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, according to court filings.

U.S. District Judge Frank Volk noted to the parties earlier this month that they could conclude the settlement process by Sept. 3 or the court would have a hearing in Beckley on Sept. 10.

Volk canceled a hearing in the case previously scheduled for July 30, after the parties informed the court of a pending settlement, according to court filings.

Starr Indemnity & Liability alleged in its lawsuit, filed May 4, that Justice Family Group has failed and refused to pay deductibles due under policies covering June 1, 2018, to June 1, 2020, that provided insurance coverage for the Justice company’s liabilities.

Both policies have per-accident deductibles of $1 million when a bodily injury occurs by accident and per-employee deductibles of $1 million when a bodily injury occurs by disease, according to the lawsuit.

Justice Family Group is a limited liability company in the Management of Companies and Enterprises sector, according to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office. That sector includes establishments that hold securities of companies to own a controlling interest in them, making or influencing their management decisions, per the federal North American Industry Classification System.

Neither Justice Family Group nor the Governor’s Office could be reached for comment.

The lawsuit lists Justice, his son, James Justice III, and his daughter, Jillean Justice, as the company’s members. The Secretary of State’s Office lists the latter two as managers of the company, which shares an address with The Greenbrier, the Justice-owned resort in White Sulphur Springs.

Justice said he would put his children in charge of his family’s business operations upon becoming governor in 2017. Justice listed Justice Family Group LLC as one of his more than 100 businesses on his 2021 financial disclosure form, filed with the West Virginia Ethics Commission in January.

Another Justice-owned company, Bluestone Resources, nearly had a lapse in workers’ compensation coverage last month.

The West Virginia Offices of the Insurance Commissioner learned that the workers’ compensation insurance policy issued to Bluestone Resources, a coal company, was canceled at 12:01 a.m. on July 19, Erin Hunter, Offices of the Insurance Commissioner deputy commissioner and general counsel said following a Gazette-Mail Freedom of Information Act request filed with the offices.

The request revealed correspondence from the offices to Bluestone Resources, James Justice III, Jillean Justice and other executives dated July 19 and July 20 informing them that Bluestone was operating illegally in the state because it failed to maintain mandatory workers’ compensation coverage and was considered an uninsured employer.

But the insurer, Liberty Mutual, informed Bluestone Resources Inc. and the state insurance commissioner offices on July 21 that the policy was reinstated without any lapse in coverage on July 21 back to its original cancellation date and time, according to Liberty Mutual correspondence to both parties.

Bluestone Resources and other entities covered under the policy no longer are considered uninsured employers, Hunter noted. Neither Gov. Justice nor his children are listed as owners of businesses listed in the West Virginia Offices of the Insurance Commissioner Employer Violator System listing businesses and business owners who are delinquent or in default on their workers’ compensation obligations.

The insurance commissioner offices are not aware of any prior coverage lapses involving workers’ compensation insurance policies issued to Bluestone Resources, Hunter said.

“Without doing exhaustive research, the Insurance Commissioner is not aware of any prior coverage lapses involving workers’ compensation insurance policies issued to Bluestone Resources, LLC,” Hunter said in an email.

Brief interruptions in coverage have been more common for Bluestone coal company retirees, according to four retired miners and the United Mine Workers union, who filed a lawsuit in 2019 asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia to stop four Justice coal companies from terminating employer benefit plans for retired miners, their spouses and dependents.

The lawsuit said the companies refused to pay for medical and prescription benefits in accordance with a collective bargaining agreement with the union starting at the end of 2016. In June, the four miners and the UMW alleged that the Justice companies — Justice Energy Co. Inc., Keystone Service Industries, Bluestone Coal Corp., Double-Bonus Coal Co. and Southern Coal Corp. — had allowed a lapse in prescription drug coverage for the 10th time in 81/2 months, prolonging a pattern of retirees not being able to fill prescriptions for critical health treatment.

The UMW and retired miners withdrew a pending contempt motion last month, reserving the right to renew it if the companies fail to comply with a June 3 consent order requiring them to provide uninterrupted health care and drug coverage.

The Justice family’s financial troubles have spilled over into court repeatedly in recent months.

Justice and his wife, Cathy, and their son and three family companies sued Greensill Capital Limited in federal court in New York in March. Their lawsuit alleges that the global lender committed fraud in a long-term financing arrangement that included Bluestone paying $108 million in fees and another $100 million in warrants to purchase stakes in the coal company.

The governor acknowledged last month that he personally guaranteed loans from Greensill that The Wall Street Journal reported total nearly $700 million.

Justice, his wife and son and 11 family businesses, including The Greenbrier Hotel Corp. and Greenbrier-related sports and recreation entities, also are seeking at least $421 million in damages from Carter Bank & Trust, which they allege in a federal lawsuit induced them into loan defaults.

Reach Mike Tony at

mtony@hdmediallc.com,

304-348-1236 or follow

@Mike__Tony on Twitter.

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