RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court has heard arguments in a lawsuit filed by the families of West Virginia coal miners who were denied benefits for black lung disease after a Johns Hopkins Health System doctor insisted their X-rays did not show the disease.

A judge last year dismissed the lawsuit, finding that the doctor had immunity under Maryland and federal law.

During arguments before a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday, the families’ lawyer said Dr. Paul Wheeler and the Johns Hopkins black lung unit “believed they were above the law” when Wheeler disregarded federal regulations on how to interpret X-rays to diagnose black lung disease.

A lawyer for Johns Hopkins said the case “begins and ends” with witness immunity, which shields witnesses from later civil liability.

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