What's in a Word? "'Poison,' 'Toxic' Nixed By Judges"

"WHEELING, W.Va. -- Three judges who will hear a coal slurry pollution lawsuit against Massey Energy have declared any reference to a deadly 2010 mine explosion off limits for the August trial and ordered the plaintiffs' lawyers to avoid inflammatory phrases including 'poison' or 'toxic soup' in opening statements.

In a series of rulings late Friday, the judges said words and phrases including 'forgotten communities' can be used, but only in closing arguments against Massey and a subsidiary, Rawl Sales & Processing.

Massey had argued the phrases are prejudicial, irrelevant and of no help to jurors.

Plaintiffs' attorney Van Bunch said his team has never described their clients' towns as 'forgotten communities,' explaining the reference comes from a sign that residents erected themselves. When they tried to fight Massey, he said, they were ignored. When they complained to state regulators, they were ignored. The state didn't supply them clean drinking water until the lawsuit was filed."

Vicki Smith reports for the Associated Press July 23, 2011.

Monday, July 25, 2011