Elizabeth's Reviews > The Buffalo Creek Disaster: How the survivors of one of the worst disasters in coal-mining history brought suit against the coal company--and won

The Buffalo Creek Disaster by Gerald M. Stern
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Aug 24, 07

Recommended for: Anyone interested in man-made disasters and/or law
Read in August, 2007

Just read this for law school, which I started this month. I have said good-bye for the next four years to my local bookstore (my usual place to find the next book I'd like to read) and said hello to casebooks on civil procedure and contracts.

The professor had us read this book, which is more narrative, as a way to ease us into civil procedure. Very kind of her. The story is interesting enough that I would have liked to have read it even if I weren't in law school. In W. Va. in the mid-1970's, hundreds of people were killed and several small communities were completely wiped away when a dam built by a coal mining coompany broke and flooded the valley below. The book was written by the lawyer who helped over 600 people (including children) bring suit against the mining company. It also marks one of the first uses (if I understood my professor correctly) of emotional distress as a means to achieve compensation.

As a law school student, I found it to be an excellent example of how a civil suit works its way through the court. As a member of society, I was heart broken by the devasation and despair the tragedy brought to these families. Not only did the people lose family members, but they lost their entire community. And while the disaster occurred in the 1970's, we still face some of the same challenges as seen in the flooding in New Orleans and the recent mining disasters in PA and Utah.
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