Buck Creek Coal Co. v. Sexton, No. 11-4304 (6th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Sexton, a smoker, spent 25 years working in coal mines. He first applied for Black Lung Act (30 U.S.C. 901) benefits in 1973. The application was unsuccessful as were two other claims. In 2001, two years after the denial became final, Sexton filed a subsequent claim. The district director recommended an award of benefits. Buck Creek Coal requested a formal hearing. While his claim was pending Sexton died. His widow filed her own claim and the district director issued a proposed order awarding benefits in the survivor claim. Buck Creek requested a hearing. The administrative law judge considered four medical opinions, and based on that new evidence, determined that Sexton suffered a total disability from clinical and legal pneumoconiosis and that Sexton established a change in an applicable condition of entitlement pursuant to 20 C.F.R. 725.309 and awarded benefits. The Benefits Review Board affirmed with respect to Sexton’s claim and affirmed in part and vacated in part with respect to the survivor claim. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that 20 C.F.R. 725.309 is valid and was correctly applied and that the Board’s decision did not violate principles of finality or res judicata.