Consolidation Coal Co. v. Maynes, No. 12-3653 (6th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Maynes, a miner who developed pneumoconiosis after working in Consolidated’s coal mine for 25 years, received benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 901-944, from 1997 until he died of respiratory failure in 2003. His widow sought survivors’ benefits. The then-current version of the BLBA conditioned her eligibility for benefits on proof that pneumoconiosis either caused or hastened her husband’s death. Her 2003 claim was denied. The Benefits Review Board and Sixth Circuit affirmed. In 2010, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, which amended the law so that survivors are automatically entitled to benefits if the miner received BLBA benefits during his lifetime. Congress specified that the changes would apply to claims filed after January 2005, but did not address whether persons whose claims had been denied under the previous eligibility framework, could receive benefits by filing a subsequent claim. The issue was answered in the affirmative by the Benefits Review Board and affirmed by the Third and Fourth Circuits. Although the Department of Labor, an administrative law judge, and the Benefits Review Board agreed Maynes was entitled to benefits, they disagreed about the appropriate commencement date for benefits. The Sixth Circuit rejected Consolidated’s appeal, upholding the 2009 commencement date.