United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Clarksburg
JEFFREY H. MICHAEL, Plaintiff,
THE HARRISON COUNTY COAL COMPANY, a Delaware Corporation, and CONSOLIDATED COAL COMPANY, a Delaware Corporation, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO
DISMISS [ECF NO. 10]
S. KLEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss the Amended
Complaint. That motion is fully briefed and ripe for
consideration. For the reasons discussed below, the Court
will grant the motion.
Plaintiff, Jeffrey H. Michael (“Plaintiff”),
originally filed this action in the Circuit Court of Marion
County, West Virginia, alleging that the Defendants, the
Harrison County Coal Company (“HCCC”) and
Consolidated Coal Company (“CCC”) (together,
“Defendants”), damaged Plaintiff while conducting
long-wall mining operations under and adjacent to his
property. On June 25, 2018, Plaintiff filed an Amended
Complaint. ECF No. 9. Defendants then filed a Motion
to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, which is the subject of
this Order. ECF No. 10. This case was transferred to
United States District Judge Thomas S. Kleeh on December 1,
purposes of the pending Motion to Dismiss, the facts
reiterated here are regarded as true. See Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Plaintiff owns an
interest in land in Mannington District, Marion County, West
Virginia. ECF No. 9 at ¶ 1. Beginning in March
2016, Defendants began conducting long-wall mining operations
under and adjacent to Plaintiff's property. Id.
¶ 4. During and after the mining operations, Plaintiff
noticed damages to his property, to the structures on the
property, and to his natural water supplies. Id.
alleges that “[a]s a direct and proximate result of the
negligent, illegal or improper long-wall mining operations
conducted by the Defendants, ” he has suffered and
continues to suffer from the following damages: damage to the
residence, horse barn, riding arena, barn, and other
outbuildings; loss of natural water sources; diminution of
the total value of the property; loss of the use of the
property and/or structures on it; annoyance and
inconvenience; functional impairment of the surface lands;
and loss of income. Id. ¶ 5. He alleges that
Defendants have failed to correct the damages or adequately
compensate him despite being aware of the problems with the
land. Id. ¶ 6.
on these allegations, Plaintiff brings three claims: (1) a
common law claim for damages, based on negligent or illegal
mining operations; (2) a statutory claim under the Surface
Coal Mining and Reclamation Act (“SCMRA”); and
(3) injunctive relief. The claim for injunctive relief asks
the Court to order Defendants to comply with the SCMRA and
provide an itemization of the material damages caused by
their mining operations. Plaintiff also requests punitive
damages, along with compensatory damages, pre-judgment and
post-judgment interest, expert fees, attorneys' fees and
costs, and such other further relief as the Court deems
STANDARD OF REVIEW
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a
defendant to move for dismissal upon the ground that a
complaint does not “state a claim upon which relief can
be granted.” In ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court
“must accept as true all of the factual allegations
contained in the complaint.” Anderson v. Sara Lee
Corp., 508 F.3d 181, 188 (4th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)). A court
is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion
couched as a factual allegation.” Papasan v.
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986).
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(6)(b) tests the “legal
sufficiency of a complaint.” Francis v.
Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). A court
should dismiss a complaint if it does not contain
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Plausibility exists
“when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The factual allegations
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above a
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545.
The facts must constitute more than “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action.”
Id. at 555. A motion to dismiss “does not
resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a
claim, or the applicability of defenses.”
Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 942,
952 (4th Cir. 1992).
moved to dismiss Count One (the common law claim), along with
the request for punitive damages and the claim for injunctive
relief as it relates to the request for itemization. The
Court will examine each in turn.