WASHINGTON (CAP) - The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has settled a class-action lawsuit filed by the estates of Disney's seven dwarfs, agreeing to pay out $6.3 million, or $900,000 per dwarf, for medical expenses related to mine safety incidents that occurred some 70 years ago, according to court documents unearthed yesterday by CAP News.
The settlement is the second largest involving mine safety in U.S. history, and a gratifying victory for the weary families of Doc, Happy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey, Sleepy, and Bashful.
"I think the MSHA misunderestimated our reliance, our ability to stay the course," said a 59-year-old Midland, Tex. native who didn't reveal his name in the lawsuit, but is the great, great, great grandson of Dopey.
The dwarfs submitted a combined 432 accident reports to the owners of the federally subsidized U.S. Mine Corp. between 1932-1942. The reports show the dwarfs suffered from a horrifying list of ailments including emphysema, malaria, black lung, and severed arms and fingers, as well as tumors and unidentified black lesions.
"It's a mixed blessing," explained Herb Livshits, the great, great, nephew of Happy. "It's nice to get some closure, but it pains me to think how difficult it must have been for my great, great uncle to go by the name of Happy while suffering through three quarters of his life with four severed fingers, a rusty iron rod in his leg, and a cyst on one of his lungs the size of a gourd.
"I just wish [the 1937 Disney documentary Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs] told the whole story - it didn't show that side of it," said Livshits.
Other significant details from the case dug up by CAP News:
- Although the dwarfs appeared quite old in the movie, the oldest, Doc, was 24 when he retired in 1942.
- According to their applications, none of the 'dwarfs' were shorter than 5'9" when they were hired.
- Some of the lax safety measures of the time include some particularly bad advice: for example, "rub petroleum jelly over nostrils in the event of a methane gas release after an explosion"; and "when digested, in small amounts, coal has enough protein to sustain a (full-size) miner for three days underground."
Violently allergic to petroleum jelly, Healthy Dwarf changed his name to Sneezy in 1934.
The estate of Bashful refused to comment on this story.
- John Gettings