Canadian company: Justice firms are one and the same

CHARLESTON — A Canadian steel manufacturer suing several companies owned by Gov. Jim Justice said an effort to remove some of those companies from the suit should not be granted.

Attorneys for Essar Steel Algoma Inc. filed a response Friday to a motion to dismiss 12 companies owned by Justice and managed by his son, Jay Justice, from a lawsuit against Southern Coal Sales Corp.

Algoma, the second largest steel manufacturer in Canada, alleges that Southern Coal Sales violated an agreement to supply 780,000 tons of coal, amounting to more than half of Algoma’s annual needs. Instead, Algoma claims that Southern Coal Sales only supplied 31 percent of the coal agreed to in the 2015 contract.

The suit, previously filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Vermont, was transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 2017. Algoma amended the complaint in 2018 to go after Southern Coal Sales and other Justice-owned companies, asking for a judgment of $6.7 million.

Twelve of Justice’s companies filed a motion June 24 to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming they had no responsibility for the deal between Algoma and Southern Coal Sales and that they were not alter egos for Southern Coal Sales.

The companies seeking dismissal are: James C. Justice Companies Inc.; James C. Justice LLC; Bluestone Industries Inc.; Bluestone Coal Corp.; Bluestone Mineral Inc.; Bluestone Energy Sales Corp.; A & G Coal Corp.; Tams Management Inc.; Encore Leasing LLC; Bluestone Resources Inc.; Justice Family Farms LLC; and Southern Coal Corp.

In Friday’s response, attorneys for Algoma argue that Southern Coal Sales and the 12 other Justice-owned companies didn’t act like separate entities, but functioned as one company, sharing assets, resources, employees, email addresses, and moving money from one company to another. That makes the 12 Justice-owned companies alter egos of Southern Coal Sales, Algoma alleges.

Algoma’s attorneys pushed back against a defense by the 12 Justice-owned companies that claimed that their corporate structure is common among U.S. coal companies.

Companies owned by Gov. Justice and managed by his son have had to fight back several attempts in the federal courts recently to pierce the corporate veil and either sue other Justice-owned companies or go directly after the Justice family.

In May, Justice Energy came to a deal with U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger on a civil contempt penalty after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia filed a motion to pierce the corporate veil. Last week, several Justice-owned companies filed a motion to be dismissed from a complaint filed by a U.S. Attorney’s Office in Virginia over millions of dollars in unpaid mine safety penalties.

(Adams can be reached at sadams@newsand sentinel.com)

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