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Hobet Mining, LLC v. Epling

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

April 17, 2015

HOBET MINING, LLC, Petitioner,
v.
CARL R. EPLING, JR.; DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION PROGRAMS, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, Respondents

Argued: January 29, 2015.

Page 499

On Petition for Review of an Order of the Benefits Review Board. (12-0404-BLA; 12-0404-A-BLA).

ARGUED:

William Steele Mattingly, JACKSON KELLY PLLC, Morgantown, West Virginia, for Petitioner.

Sean Gregory Bajkowski, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, Washington, D.C.; Leonard Joseph Stayton, Inez, Kentucky, for Respondents.

ON BRIEF:

Ashley M. Harman, JACKSON KELLY PLLC, for Petitioner.

M. Patricia Smith, Solicitor of Labor, Rae Ellen James, Associate Solicitor, Gary K. Stearman, Counsel for Appellate Litigation, Sarah M. Hurley, 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 KEENAN, FLOYD, and HARRIS, Circuit Judges. Judge Harris wrote the opinion, in which Judge Keenan and Judge Floyd joined.

OPINION

Page 500

PAMELA HARRIS, Circuit Judge:

Hobet Mining, LLC (" Hobet" ) petitions for review of a decision awarding black lung benefits to Carl R. Epling, Jr. (" Epling" ). The administrative law judge (" ALJ" ) found tat Epling was entitled to the benefit of the so-called " fifteen-year presumption," a statutory provision that presumes eligibility for benefits when a

Page 501

claimant suffers from a totally disabling respiratory or pulmonary impairment and has fifteen years of qualifying coal mine employment. See 30 U.S.C. § 921(c)(4). Because Hobet had failed to rebut that presumption, the ALJ concluded, Epling was entitled to benefits. We find that the ALJ's determinations were supported by substantial evidence, and we therefore deny the petition for review.

I.

A.

The Black Lung Benefits Act (" Act" ) provides benefits to " coal miners who are totally disabled due to pneumoconiosis," popularly known as black lung disease. 30 U.S.C. § 901(a). To prove entitlement to black lung benefits in the absence of the fifteen-year presumption, an individual must show that he has pneumoconiosis arising from coal mine employment,[1] and that this disease is a substantially contributing cause of his totally disabling ...


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