US court keeps Peabody on hook for some Patriot retiree benefits
Aug 21 (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Wednesday revived health benefits for about 3,100 retired miners at a subsidiary of bankrupt Patriot Coal Corp.
The decision, handed down by the Eighth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel, keeps Peabody Energy Co, Patriot's former parent, responsible for costs that a bankruptcy judge initially ruled it no longer owed.
The reversal is a small victory for workers in their fight against Peabody, which they allege knowingly bankrupted Patriot by spinning it off in 2007 without ample assets.
Overall, though, coal miners are still expected to sustain major cuts to benefits as a result of Patriot's collapse.
"This is a bright ray of good news in what has been a long, dreary period for the retirees," Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Patriot earlier this year gained a court's permission to abrogate its labor deals for current and retired workers, and last week agreed to new, cost-cutting deals.
A spokesman for Peabody did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.
Spokespeople and a lawyer for Patriot did not return calls seeking a comment.