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

The ruling Friday by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a 2017 ruling by a federal judge who found Dr. Paul Wheeler had immunity as an expert witness for coal companies.

In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court panel agreed, finding that expert witnesses are shielded from civil liability under Maryland and federal law.

The families’ lawyer had argued that Wheeler and the black lung unit at Johns Hopkins believed they were “above the law” when Wheeler disregarded regulations on how to interpret X-rays to diagnose black lung disease.

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