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Supreme Court to hear health benefits dispute

Do the legal successors of coal companies that go out of business have to pay...

Do the legal successors of coal companies that go out of business have to pay benefits to retired miners that are part of the United Mine Workers of America?s (UMWA) health fund? The US Supreme Court will tackle that question during its term that starts in October. The court?s ruling could help determine which coal producers must bear the costs of paying benefits to retired workers. The case, Halter v. Sigmon Coal Co. centers on a decision by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to assign 103 beneficiaries-retired miners and their dependents-from the mine worker?s Combined Benefit Fund to a so-called successor in interest, Jericol Mining and Sigmon Coal Co. The SSA decision assigned Jericol responsibility for paying premiums into the Combined Fund for the retirees? health benefits. The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that SSA erred in assigning beneficiaries to Sigmon and Jericol. That decision runs counter to decisions in the D.C. Circuit and the Third Circuit, both of which sustained SSA?s assignment of Combined Fund beneficiaries to direct successors of signatory operators. The Supreme Court?s ruling in would resolve conflicting interpretations of laws among different federal courts.

platts.com