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Collins v. Pond Creek Mining Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

May 1, 2014

NORA COLLINS, widow of Johnnie Collins, Petitioner,
v.
POND CREEK MINING COMPANY; DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION PROGRAMS, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, Respondents

Argued: March 20, 2014.

Page 181

On Petition for Review of an Order of the Benefits Review Board. (12-0230 BLA).

ARGUED:

Leonard Joseph Stayton, Inez, Kentucky, for Petitioner.

Rita Ann Roppolo, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, Washington, D.C., for Respondent Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, United States Department of Labor.

Kathy Lynn Snyder, JACKSON KELLY, PLLC, Morgantown, West Virginia, for Respondent Pond Creek Mining Company.

ON BRIEF:

M. Patricia Smith, Solicitor of Labor, Rae Ellen Frank James, Associate Solicitor, Gary K. Stearman, Counsel for Appellate Litigation, Office of the Solicitor, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, Washington, D.C., for Respondent Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, United States Department of Labor.

Before WILKINSON, KING, and FLOYD, Circuit Judges. Judge Wilkinson wrote the opinion, in which Judge King and Judge Floyd joined.

OPINION

Page 182

WILKINSON, Circuit Judge:

This case is the latest chapter in a long-running dispute between Nora Collins (" Mrs. Collins" ) and Pond Creek Mining Company (" Pond Creek" ) regarding her claim to survivor's benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. § § 901-945 (the " Act" ). Mrs. Collins petitions for review of an April 2013 decision of the Benefits Review Board (" BRB" ) affirming the denial of benefits by an Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ). She challenges the ALJ's ruling that she failed to prove that her husband's pneumoconiosis hastened his death. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the BRB's decision and remand for an award of benefits.

I.

A.

Johnnie Collins (" Mr. Collins" ) worked in various mining-industry jobs for more than thirty-six years between 1943 and 1983, including at Pond Creek for the last eleven. He was also a regular smoker during this time, though he later quit. When he stopped working for Pond ...


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