Updated Tue, Feb 5, 2013 4:51 pm
The West Virginia Supreme Court says federal mine inspectors can be held liable and sued when a negligent inspection results in the wrongful death of a coal miner.
The ruling issued Tuesday afternoon says inspectors owe "a duty of care" to workers.
It's a victory for the widows of two men killed in a 2006 fire at Massey Energy's Aracoma Coal Alma No. 1 mine.
Attorney Bruce Stanley says it's another step toward their continuing fight to bring those responsible for the tragedy to justice. He says companies may put safety ahead of profits, but that shouldn't and can't excuse regulators from their duties.
Stanley hopes the threat of lawsuits will discourage inspectors from shirking their duties.
The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration didn't immediately comment on the ruling.