Curtis Tate Published

Judge Holds Justice Coal Company In Civil Contempt, Threatens Fine

A large man with white hair wearing a blue jacket over a red shirt speaks to an audience from a stage under a tent.Curtis Tate / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A federal judge has held a coal company owned by the Justice family in civil contempt.

Southern Coal did not comply with a September court order to repay a Charleston insurance company more than $500,000 in workers’ compensation claims.

So Judge Elizabeth Dillon of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, earlier this week gave Southern Coal seven days to repay BrickStreet Mutual Insurance.

After that, Southern Coal will have to pay a penalty of $2,500 for every day it does not comply.

“It is well-settled that the imposition of a daily fine to coerce a party into complying with a court’s order is within a district court’s civil contempt power,” Dillon’s ruling said. “As requested by BrickStreet, and there being no opposition by Southern Coal, the court will also order Southern Coal to pay BrickStreet’s reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in pursuing this remedy.”

Southern Coal is one of the numerous companies the Justice Family owns. Southern Coal argued that it was unable to comply with the court’s September order because the company is insolvent.

Dillon noted in her ruling that Southern Coal had provided no evidence that it had no ability to repay BrickStreet other than simply saying it couldn’t.

“Here, Southern Coal has not affirmatively produced evidence that it is presently unable to comply with the Final Order other than the conclusory assertion that it has ‘no present ability to pay and comply with the Court’s judgment order,’” Dillon’s ruling said.

Justice’s companies are involved in multiple active cases in the Western District of Virginia both as plaintiffs and defendants. The companies owe creditors tens of millions of dollars. The lenders have sought to seize property, including resorts and a helicopter.

Southern Coal and many other Justice family companies are headquartered in Roanoke, Virginia. Gov. Jim Justice is a Republican U.S. Senate candidate this year.