Usery v. Turner Elkhorn Mining Company

RESPONDENT:Turner Elkhorn Mining Company
LOCATION:Bonanza Liquor Store

DOCKET NO.: 74-1302
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)

CITATION: 428 US 1 (1976)
ARGUED: Dec 02, 1975
DECIDED: Jul 01, 1976

Lawrence G. Wallace – argued the cause for appellants in No. 74-1302 and for appellees in No. 74-1316
R. R. McMahan

Facts of the case


Media for Usery v. Turner Elkhorn Mining Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – December 02, 1975 in Usery v. Turner Elkhorn Mining Company

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – July 01, 1976 in Usery v. Turner Elkhorn Mining Company

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in number 74-1302 and the related case 74-1316, Usery, the Secretary of Labor against Turner Elkhorn Mining Company will be announced by Mr. Justice Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall:

These cases are here on appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Both appeals stand from a suit brought by 22 coal mine operators to test the constitutionality of certain aspects of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, as amended by the Black Lung Benefit Act of 1972.

Under these Acts, the coal mine operators are required to compensate certain miners, and their survivors for death or disability caused by a disease commonly known as black lung disease.

This disease is caused by the long-term inhalation of coal dust.

It affects a high percentage of American coal miners with severe and frequently crippling respiratory impairment.

Because state programs were considered inadequate to compensate miners inflicted with black lung disease, Congress provided for a federal program of compensation.

The compensation program is far too complicated to meet permitted detail, all descriptions of its provisions, or the operator’s many challenges to its provisions.

Basically, the operator has challenged the provisions requiring them to provide black lung benefits in two respects.

First, they claim that the program violate the Due Process Clause insofar, as it requires them to compensate former employees who terminated their work in the coal mine before the program was enacted.

The District Court rejected this claim and for reasons set forth in the opinion filed with the clerk, we agree that the Due Process Clause poses no bar to the aspects of the program.

The operators also challenged the constitutionality under the Due Process clause of analogous provisions governing the determination of which miners and survivors are entitled to receive benefits under the program.

The District Court found that two of these provisions unconstitutionally impaired the operator’s ability to train them against claims of black lung benefits.

For the reasons stated in our opinion, this aspect of this Court’s judgment is affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated in part.

Mr. Justice Powell has filed a concurring opinion.

Mr. Justice Stewart has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which Mr. Justice Rehnquist has joined.

The Chief Justice concurs in the judgment.

Mr. Justice Stevens took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Marshall.