Bob Murray's Lawsuit Against John Oliver Is Even Sillier Than We Expected

from the slappity-slapp-slapp-slapp dept

Yesterday we wrote about coal company Murray Energy and its CEO, Bob Murray, actually following through and suing John Oliver — something that Murray’s lawyers had threatened to do when Oliver and his team had reached out to Murray for a piece Oliver was doing on coal. The result of being threatened was that Oliver spent nearly half of the 24 minute segment on Murray, carefully detailing some of Murray’s history and positions. If you missed it, watch it again here:

Anyway, when we wrote about the case yesterday, we noted that we had to do it based solely on the reporting of the Daily Beast, as they broke the story and — for reasons I still don’t understand — refused to post the actual complaint. However, now we’ve obtained the full complaint and can dig in on how incredibly silly it is. It appears to be a quintessential SLAPP lawsuit, where the entire point is not to bring a legitimate cause of action, but to chill free speech that criticizes Bob Murray. As Ken “Popehat” White notes, it’s “lawsuit as theater” and “an unapologetic political screed” — that is, apparently designed to rile people up, rather than to present a reasonable legal argument.

Let’s dig in. It certainly starts out on a high note with the rhetoric:

On June 18, 2017, Defendants executed a meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character and reputation of Mr. Robert E. Murray and his companies, including Murray Energy Corporation and those in West Virginia, on a world stage. They did so for their personal financial gain by knowingly broadcasting false, injurious, and defamatory comments to HBO’s approximately 134 million paying subscribers, while also knowing that their malicious broadcast would be repeated to countless more individuals through various outlets (including other media owned by certain Defendants.

I’ve now watched the video four times and I fail to see anywhere that it goes after “those in West Virginia.” Indeed, it’s actually quite sympathetic to the plight of miners and former miners in the area who have run into problems or lost their jobs. The only people that it holds out as problematic… are the CEOs of various mining companies and the President of the United States. And even if Murray’s reputation is mocked in the piece, as long as there aren’t false statements of fact, presented with knowledge of their falsity or reckless disregard for the truth, it’s all perfectly legal. Making Bob Murray look foolish or mean isn’t illegal, as long as it’s based on statements of opinion or those backed up with evidence.

But, Murray’s lawyers appear to suggest that because Murray is in poor health, that somehow makes this entirely different. It’s… an odd sympathy play in a lawsuit:

They did this to a man who needs a lung transplant, a man who does not expect to live to see the end of this case. They attacked him in a forum in which he had no opportunity to defend himself, and so he has brought this suit to try to set the record straight.

The health stuff is pure “theater” as Ken noted. The “no opportunity to defend” himself is weird, because I thought Republicans like Murray were completely 100% against a “fairness doctrine” that required equal time for political opponents (which is the right position to take). But, even beyond that, the idea that Murray had no choice but to file a lawsuit to defend himself or to set the record straight is laughable. As Oliver’s report clearly showed, Murray is regularly on TV and could easily get a message onto the various TV news programs that have him on as a guest. And, either way (again) that’s got absolutely nothing to do with defamation law and how it works.

The sob story continues:

Worse yet, Defendants employed techniques designed solely to harass and embarrass Plaintiffs, including Mr. Murray, a seventy-seven year old citizen in ill health and dependent on an oxygen tank for survival, who, despite the foregoing, continuously devotes his life, including by working seven days each week, to save the jobs and better the lives of the thousands of coal miners that he employs in West Virginia and elsewhere. Defendants childishly demeaned and disparaged Mr. Murray and his companies, made jokes about Mr. Murray’s age, health, and appearance, made light of a tragic mining incident, broadcasted false statements, and incited television and internet viewers to do harm to Mr. Murray and his companies, all before a worldwide audience–including the thousands of people that work for and do business with Mr. Murray and his companies in West Virginia. In fact, medical doctors have informed Mr. Murray that he should stop working because the stress is shortening his life. Mr. Murray must, however, continue working because of all those individuals who rely on him. But nothing has ever stressed him more than this vicious and untruthful attack.

Bravo! Quite a performance there. This seems clearly targeted towards pulling at the heartstrings of folks in West Virginia, but, again seems to have little to nothing to do with the actual law. Again, Murray’s health is not an issue here — and if this has caused him more stress than anything else in his life ever, then Mr. Murray has led an incredibly low stress life. Is he really saying that a late night British comedian on a premium channel has caused him more stress than the time that one of his mines collapsed and killed a group of his employees? If so… that’s… weird. Separately, making fun of someone’s age, health or appearance (and I don’t recall any actual jokes about his age or health…) is, again, not defamation. It’s sort of protected by the First Amendment. The only thing that could be defamation is “false statements” and notice how the lawsuit seems to be playing up everything else, rather than that?

When you start to dig into the actual meat of the lawsuit… there’s almost nothing there. It complains that Oliver’s staff may have contacted Murray Energy under false pretenses, saying that they “were under the false impression that Defendants would use this supplied information to accurately and responsibly broadcast the facts and circumstances regarding the topics,” but that, again, makes little difference to the question of defamation. Just because a news company doesn’t present your version of the events exactly as you want it presented, doesn’t make it defamation. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

The lawsuit does provide plenty of additional bits of information concerning the Crandall Canyon mine collapse and how Murray reacted to it. And all of that is perhaps interesting, but again, none of it requires Oliver to portray the story in the way that Murray Energy likes. And, again, if you go back and review the actual story that Oliver did, he does not contradict any of the factual claims laid out by Murray’s lawyers. Rather, he highlights the stories of miners or families of miners who were impacted by the collapse and were not happy with how Murray responded. The crux of the argument on Murray’s side is “but we tried real hard.” And, great. But highlighting how others felt about the effort and actions is not defamation. It’s presenting other viewpoints.

The only possible “factual” point where there could be some controversy is over whether or not the mine collapsed due to an earthquake, as Murray has insisted since the day of the collapse itself. Oliver pointed to the US government report on the incident put together by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), a part of the US Department of Labor. That report concluded: “The August 6 catastrophic accident was the result of an inadequate mine design,” and, on top of it: “MSHA found no evidence that a naturally occurring earthquake caused the collapse on August 6.”

In the lawsuit, Murray’s evidence that this is false seems to focus on semantics and making fun of the MSHA inspectors (you know they’re making fun of them because it puts “experts” in quote marks):

The Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration’s report regarding the collapse (the “MSHA Report”) contained multiple concessions that a sudden change in stresses due to a “slip along a joint” or “joint slip in the overburden,” which is very similar to the United States Geological Survey’s definition of an “earthquake” (i.e., “both sudden slip on a fault, and the resulting ground shaking and radiated seismic energy caused by the slip”), “could have been a factor in triggering the collapse” and was one of the “likely candidates” for triggering the collapse, but MSHA and its “experts” chose not to analyze the seismic data of the triggering event and instead focused on the secondary collapse, which was a disservice to the lost miners, their families and the truth.

Studies have shown that the Mine collapse was a seismic event originating in the Joe’s Valley Fault Zone. More specifically, these studies indicated that the triggering event for the seismic disturbance, which was not consistent with normal mining-induced seismicity resulting in the collapse, occurred on a subsidiary fault parallel to the Joe’s Valley Fault. This is a more technical manner of stating that the collapse was caused by what many would characterize as an earthquake.

So that first paragraph is nonsense. It’s not “actual malice” if you have clear evidence to back up your statements, and the official MSHA report sure seems like pretty good evidence to support that Oliver and his team believed what Oliver said was true. The fact that Murray doesn’t like the MSHA “experts” doesn’t magically make using their report “defamation.” Second, notice that all of the talk about the earthquake comes with qualifying language: “very similar to… definition of an ‘earthquake'”, “what many would characterize as an earthquake.” Even beyond the other stuff, this further undermines any defamation claim over the one sort of “fact” the lawsuit focuses on: if there’s a dispute over whether or not what happened was truly an earthquake, then choosing a side in that dispute is not defamation. It’s an opinion. That’s protected.

Mr. Murray and his companies warned Defendants to cease and desist from a broadcast of defamatory comments or any misguided attempt at humor regarding the tragic mine collapse and loss of life, which Plaintiffs believed would be cruel and heartless.

So, uh, earlier in the complaint, Murray’s lawyers argue that they believed that when Oliver and his team reached out they were ordinary journalists, claiming that they reached out “under the guise of responsible and ethical journalism.” And, yet, here they admit that that they knew that he’s a comedian who regularly satirizes people and companies, thus they didn’t want to see a humorous take on the situation. Also, there’s no law against “misguided” humor (and, uh, many folks found the humor to be quite on target). Finally, there is nothing in defamation law about it being illegal for you to have “cruel and heartless” comedy. And, in actuality, Oliver’s piece was neither cruel, nor heartless. Many would likely argue that it was incredibly sympathetic and empathetic to the plight of struggling coal miners, who are facing a radical transformation of their industry.

The complaint, once again, then hits on the idea that because Oliver’s story didn’t represent the collapse the way Bob Murray wanted it portrayed, that’s defamation. That’s… not how it works. It’s not how any of this works.

In the ensuing broadcast, Defendants deliberately omitted the facts Plaintiffs provided regarding the Crandall Canyon Mine incident. There was no mention of the efforts Mr. Murray personally made to save the trapped miners. Defendant Oliver did not tell his audience that Mr. Murray arrived at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah within four hours of the collapse. Nor did Defendant Oliver say anything about the twenty-eight straight days Mr. Murray then spent on that mountain overseeing the massive rescue efforts, and administering to the families. Nor did he mention that Mr. Murray personally led the rescue efforts when rescue workers were injured and killed in a subsequent event ten days after the initial seismic event, in fact pulling rescue workers from the debris and attending to their injuries with his own hands and administering to them.

That’s nice and all… but it’s totally meaningless. Not reporting those things is not defamation. Murray has every right to then put out a statement, or go on TV, or get another reporter to tell these stories. But in a lawsuit? Just because the story is about Bob Murray doesn’t mean that Bob Murray gets editorial control. That’s not how it works, Bob.

Then it gets even more bizarre:

Instead, presumably to boost ratings, line their pockets with profits, and advance the show’s anti-coal agenda, Defendant Oliver intentionally, falsely, and outrageously conveyed that Mr. Murray has no evidence to support his statements that an earthquake caused the tragedy that took the lives of Murray Energy miners during the course of their work for the organization.

Rather than fairly characterizing the evidence that he had in his possession on the subject, Defendant Oliver instead quoted an out-of-context snippet from a single report stating that there was “no evidence that a naturally occurring earthquake caused the collapse.” Because Defendant Oliver omitted any mention of the other reports he was aware of that evidence that an earthquake caused the collapse, as Mr. Murray correctly stated following the collapse, Defendant Oliver’s presentation intentionally and falsely implied that there is no such evidence.

Yeah. So, about that. The above just isn’t true. Watch the video again. Oliver directly says that Murray relies on other evidence to support the earthquake claim (“to this day, Murray says the evidence proves that he was correct.”) Then Oliver notes (correctly and accurately) that the government report says otherwise: “that was decidedly not the conclusion of the government’s investigation.” So, for Murray’s lawyers to argue that Oliver ignored the evidence on the other side is… simply not accurate. Oliver notes that Murray points to evidence on his side, but he then points to the government’s conclusions. Yes, Oliver makes it clear he believes the government’s report, but, um, it’s the US government. You’re not going to win a defamation lawsuit by arguing that relying on the conclusions of a federal government investigation is defamation, just because you have “other evidence” that you claim disagrees with the government’s evidence.

Worse still, as discussed, Defendant Oliver’s Senior News Producer, Defendant Wilson, obtained from Plaintiffs detailed information evidencing an earthquake or earthquake-like event did trigger and cause the Crandall Canyon Mine collapse.

Note the immediate caveats of an “earthquake-like event.” Again, this undermines the argument that saying a government report concluded it wasn’t an earthquake is somehow defamation.

They also did this despite knowing that determinations of causation are vastly complex and can take years before a reliable conclusion can be reached.

So, uh, yeah. About that. This is true, but remember, part of the joke here, from Oliver, was that Murray declared definitively in a press conference the day of the collapse that it was clearly an earthquake that caused this and not the company itself. So, if Murray’s own lawyers are now admitting that this is vastly complex and “can take years,” it sort of reinforces the key point that Oliver was making, that Murray himself immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was an earthquake and not his fault, when that was not at all clearly know. This filing seems to do more to undermine Murray than Oliver.

Defendants also aired a clip of congressional testimony of a relative of a former employee of Murray Energy that appeared to be dissatisfied with Mr. Murray’s handling of the Crandall Canyon Mine collapse, when upon information and belief the statements of that employee were not his own, but were instead scripted by adverse counsel in a lawsuit against Murray Energy and given to the employee to further the agenda of such counsel and their clients.

Right, so this is similar to the whole dismissing the MSHA report by calling its experts “experts.” Oliver accurately reported what this relative said. Who wrote it is immaterial. If what that relative said was defamatory, then Murray could go after that relative. But there’s no defamation in Oliver playing a clip of Congressional testimony. Again, that’s not how it works.

There’s a lot more in the lawsuit, which you can read below, but it pretty much all falls into the same issues as the parts described above. It’s no surprise that, looking over the website of Murray’s lawyers, they don’t list defamation as a specialty, but tend to focus on personal injury. There’s a lot of complaining and theatricality, but very little of substance, and nothing that I can see that comes anywhere close to defamation. And that makes this a pretty clear SLAPP suit, designed to chill the speech not just of Oliver and HBO, but of any other reporters looking to cover Bob Murray and Murray Energy. This is the nature of chilling effects created by SLAPP suits. They try to punish people for actually speaking out and sharing their opinion while scaring off others from doing the same.

Once again: this is an example of why we need much stronger anti-SLAPP laws at the state and federal level. Laws that require plaintiffs to pay up for filing bogus SLAPP suits, as a deterrent. And, again, one hopes that now that he’s facing such a lawsuit (which, as I’ve said from personal experience is no fun at all, no matter how sure you are that you’re in the right), John Oliver will become as outspoken in favor of anti-SLAPP laws as he’s been about other important issues.

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Comments on “Bob Murray's Lawsuit Against John Oliver Is Even Sillier Than We Expected”

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Vidiot (profile) says:

Wow.. that last bit would be a dream come true… Oliver so peeved by the SLAPP-y nature of Murray’s suit that he does a full-frontal SLAPP piece. And featuring the TD story (which would only make sense) would likely mean exposing Ayyadurai’s folly in that way only Oliver can! Poor Shiva would become so enraged he wouldn’t be able to concentrate on his next promising invention, sliced bread.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Defamation of Oliver?

Given the novel definitions of defamation Murray’s lawyers are operating under, wouldn’t their statements about Oliver’s journalistic proclivities (for want of a better word) also constitute defamation if those theories are in any way accurate?

Well, in a legal sense: no. Legal filings are granted absolute privilege, so you can’t argue that a legal filing itself is defamatory. Second, even if these statements were made outside of a legal filing, I think it would be quite difficult to argue any of them are truly defamatory. But, yes, perhaps if you were working under the warped definition of defamation used in this filing, and it was done outside of a filing, THEN in that non-existent theoretical world, there are bits that might be defamatory. But, thankfully, we don’t live in that world. Though, I get that you’re just making the ironic point…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Defamation of Oliver?

Wait… does this mean that you can say anything in a legal filing and get away with it?

You can’t get sued for defamation for it. Depending on your jurisdiction, if you’re ridiculous enough with your facts, you might be on the hook for perjury, or at least for your opponent’s fees when your case is deemed frivolous.

And by the way, if you talk to a reporter about what you put in the lawsuit, you could still get sued.

K`Tetch (profile) says:

His company has spent the last 40 years being the big dog in town. he picks lawyers that appear to complement that, being good at using that bully-pulpit to get favourable verdicts in the main source of litigation they deal in.

However now they’ve suddenly decided that being the best at taking lunch money from the under 10s, means they can try robbing the inhabitants at a major city, and this is the result.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, about that regulation:

News of the Weird, March 5, 2006:

A February report on mine safety regulation by USA Today found that complicated federal statutes and unvigorous Mine Safety and Health Administration enforcement have resulted in a structure of civil fines almost guaranteed not to deter dangerous conditions.

The largest-ever MSHA fine (for a 2001 incident with 13 deaths) was $605,400 (as compared to, for example, the FCC’s 2004 fine of CBS for the brief image of Janet Jackson’s breast at the Super Bowl, which was $3.5 million).

One attorney who represents coal companies claimed that fines are largely irrelevant to safety: "I really don’t think any responsible mine operator makes any decision about safety based on civil penalties." [USA Today, 2-10-06]

Anonymous Coward says:

“assassinate the character and reputation”

Never have understood exactly what this means.

Can dead people file claims in court? If your reputation is dead (what does that mean?), it is most likely that you are the reason why it “died”. What is a reputation like when it is alive? Does it do things all on its own without your knowledge? This is silly. Why not just use standard english to describe what your gripe is rather than embellish your claim with bullshit. Does the bullshit really help the claim? I think it hurts the claim, but that’s just me.

LFODBiker says:

Re: Re: John Oliver is to SLAPP plantiffs ...

I think John Oliver is being smart as hell about all of this. Not only does he and his lawyers know the plaintiffs don’t have a chance in hell of winning (no matter how long it takes), he also has enough material (and an excuse) for an entire show or two educating those of his audience that may not really understand the importance of anti-slapp laws at either the state or federal levels.

Streisand Effect in full force.

Anonymous Coward says:

"those in west Virginia"

I’ve now watched the video four times and I fail to see anywhere that it goes after "those in West Virginia." Indeed, it’s actually quite sympathetic to the plight of miners and former miners in the area who have run into problems or lost their jobs.

It wasn’t clear at first whether "miners" refers to mining companies or their workers, but it must be the latter because we don’t generally say companies "lose their jobs". Miners (the people) don’t have any relevance to the quote because it refers only to Murray and his companies: "assassinate the character and reputation of Mr. Robert E. Murray and his companies, including Murray Energy Corporation and those in West Virginia,".

"Those in West Virginia" could only mean "his [Murray’s] companies in West Virginia".

streetlight (profile) says:

Murray may be his own enemy

I watched the video yesterday and it seems Oliver depended on Murray’s own statements and actions. They didn’t need much, or any, interpretation. At another web site discussing the Murray lawsuit, it was mentioned that perhaps the use of the term Streisand Effect needed a new name. I suggested the Streisand-Murray Effect.

DanK (profile) says:

> On June 18, 2017, Defendants executed a meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character and reputation of Mr. Robert E. Murray and his companies, including Murray Energy Corporation and those in West Virginia, on a world stage.

I’ve now watched the video four times and I fail to see anywhere that it goes after "those in West Virginia."

This seems clear to me that "and those in West Virginia" is meaning "companies other than Murray Energy Corporation that are also in West Virginia", and isn’t implying that random West Virginians were targeted.

Anonymous Coward says:

Did the same "choked up" Michael Masnick write this?

Wow, what a difference a week makes. The last time I saw Michael Masnick, he was choking out “for what I said” as he spoke to the $15M claim against him. Now he’s full of self confidence and bluster, and appears to be a stone cold expert in defamation law.

Mr. Masnick, if you truly are such an expert, and your opinions carry so much weight, who was that on stage? According to your legal analysis, your own suit has no merit at all, and is also “laughable”. But I didn’t see you laughing too much on stage recently, you looked like a guilty puppy that had left his mess on the floor and knew he was going to be beaten with the newspaper.

I guess that act is just for the public, and when you return to your lonely hovel, you are imbued with legal super powers and special insight into the legal plight of others. Amazing, the difference between who you really are and how you really feel with the bluster you publish on behalf of your masters. I hope they tape and distribute your depositions. Which Michael Masnick will we see? I’m guessing the guilty puppy.

Anon says:

How does this work now...?

I’m reminded of a story about the Monty Python lawsuit against ABC(?). They blithely promised to air some specials uncensored then proceeded to censor them anyway, resulting in a lawsuit. Apparently during the case, they played the uncensored show as part of the evidence – then had to stop for a while because even the court reporter was laughing so hard he could not take notes.

So do they get to paly certain pieces of this TV show over and over in court as part of the case? I would imagine it would be hard for any judge to take Murray seriously after that…

Can I also mention that Murray looks like he’s doing an imitation of Danny DeVito’s worst comedy characters?

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Jon Stewart certainly wasn’t the first person to mix news with jokes, but he really pioneered the format of showing a clip where a public figure says one thing and then contrasting it with another clip of the same person saying exactly the opposite. (Seth Meyers is the guy who’s best at that particular technique now, though his delivery isn’t as good as Stewart’s.) I’d really like to see more of that from the major media outlets.

I think Oliver’s the best of the former Daily Show correspondents who’ve gone on to host their own shows, largely because of his format: instead of running 4-5 days a week and interviewing celebrities, he only runs once a week, and only does interviews when he feels like it; this means he doesn’t need to focus as much on up-to-the-minute headlines and can look at more general stories, and he’s never just BSing with somebody who’s promoting a movie. (Sam Bee has the same advantages, whereas Colbert and Noah are still wedded to the talk show format.) I’m looking forward to seeing what Klepper does with the old Colbert/Wilmore time slot, as I think he was the best cast member on Noah’s Daily Show (following Jessica Williams’s departure).

I wish Wilmore had been given a little bit longer to find his voice. I acknowledge that The Nightly Show had a pretty rocky start, but it really seemed like he was learning and course-correcting and patching the show’s problems as he went (ditching the Keep It 100 segment, reducing the panel size from 5 to 4, etc.). He did some real standout episodes (the interview with the rival gangs that had made peace was a highlight) and I think his show really could have been something special if Comedy Central had been more patient and given him more time. It’s not like Stewart or Colbert had a hit right out the gate either.

Zoongide (profile) says:

foolish assertions

RE: “It’s no surprise that, looking over the website of Murray’s lawyers, they don’t list defamation as a specialty, but tend to focus on personal injury”

This comment shows just how ignorant you are of legal practice!

Defamation clearly falls under the practice of Personal Injury you dumb shit!

This is why you find your self in these types of predicaments, you don’t know shit about the law before you begin shooting your stupid mouth off!

You deserve what you get. You will crash and burn!

Zoongide (profile) says:

Re: Re: foolish assertions

No, not joking. It is ignorant to assert Murray’s lawyers are not specialists in defamation when their firm clearly has experience in tort litigation.

From the link to webpage of Murray’s attorneys this article supplies above:

Jeffrey Grove: … In his 20 years of practice, Jeff has focused his work on civil litigation and has represented clients for a variety of claims including PERSONAL INJURY, environmental, product liability, medical negligence and employment litigation, to name a few.

Jeff Holmstrand: … He joined the firm in 2016 and focuses his statewide practice on defending products liability, MASS TORTS/class actions and complex insurance disputes.

David Delk: … David’s law practice focuses on PERSONAL INJURY, medical malpractice, insurance disputes and employment disputes.

Your adversaries will use this article to demonstrate that Techdirt blatantly omits facts in their reporting, even when they cite sources that contain those facts.


Chip says:

Re: Re: Re: foolish assertions

You make a “great” Point! PERSONAL INJURY, enviormental, Product liability, Medical Negligence, employment Litigation, are all “exactly the Same” as Defamation! Just like how all Regulations are the same, whether they’re spectrum regulations, speed limits, or bans on lead in my Delicious, Delicious Paint chips!

Every nation eats the Paint chips it Deserves!

Zoongide (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 foolish assertions

No Chip, that is not my point. My use of caps was not meant to offend by shouting, but simply highlighting terms. In the future I will use brackets.

You are really reaching Chip. Don’t try to cloud your error with semantics!

Personal Injury: Any violation of an individual’s right, other than his or her rights in property. The term personal injury is not confined to physical injuries.

In cases where defamation is alleged in the context of personal injury the criteria is:

Statements made must be empirically and discernibly false

A third party must have accessed the false statements

Injuries must be quantifiable

Statements must be unprivileged (not applicable here)

Damage to plaintiff’s reputation must be measurable; it must correlate to the loss of money, business, relationships or property in order to be legally viable.

In this case it is libel and could cost Oliver and others millions as it was broadcast and now in print on the web.

The key to winning this case will be simply meeting the criteria I listed, the first two of which won’t be difficult in my opinion, and the measure of the damage done, the latter being the most difficult.

This is where the expertise of personal injury will be most needed. Murray’s attorneys are very capable and also can bring outside attorneys to strengthen any weakness they might encounter in litigation.

It is likely HBO will try to settle rather than risk open display of past patterns of behavior that might cast them in a bad light to a jury, advertisers and viewers. Considering the recent rise in public contempt for the entertainment media’s failure to show restraint, it will be very difficult to seat a jury that favors media defendants.

If what you say about the rich and legal firms being bent on quashing free speech is true, then Murray’s legal team will push the case to trial to inflict the most damage they can to the reputation of their opposition and “will win the war” even if they lose the case!

Entertaining people by insulting those persons we dislike, although some might find it offensive, is protected speech, however broadcasting statements about another person that are objectively false is not, whether they are malicious or not!

I hope we never lose the right to free speech and free press in this country at the hands of “morons in the media” who seek to use their bully pulpit to further their political agenda!

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 foolish assertions

Statements made must be empirically and discernibly false

What did Oliver say that was demonstrably false?

Keeping in mind ‘they didn’t present it like I wanted them to'(Which Murray’s team seems to be bring up almost as much as talking about Murray’s poor health) does not meet this qualifier, what, precisely, did Oliver present that was demonstrably false?

The ‘contacted under false pretenses’ claim is undercut when they admit later on that they sent the C&D to try to stop ‘any misguided attempt at humor’, making it pretty clear they knew who Oliver was at the outset(and this one wouldn’t be defamation in any case).

The ‘earthquake/earthquake-like event’ claim is likewise undercut by the fact that Murray himself apparently claimed, within a day of the event that it was caused by an earthquake, despite now admitting that that sort of determination is ‘vastly complex and can take years’, with Oliver’s statements based upon the ‘experts'(their words, not mine) of the MSHA, and as the article points out if basing your statements/opinions on the findings of government agency findings is grounds for defamation claims then things have reached an entire new level in crazy.

Bringing up the statements made by friends/family of the victims of the collapse isn’t going to cut it because that actually happened, and that those statements(whether written by the ones making them or by ‘adverse counsel in a lawsuit against Murray Energy’) might not make Murray and/or his company look the best isn’t likely to make bringing them up meet the bar of ‘demonstrably false and made maliciously’.

So I’ll ask again, what exactly did Oliver say that was demonstrably false? Because as far as I can tell this is a pretty blatant example of a SLAPP suit, designed to shut down and/or punish someone for saying something that someone didn’t like, which you claim you’re opposed to.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 foolish assertions

You are really reaching Chip.

Maybe so, but Chip’s not the one who just spent 16 paragraphs responding to a joke account that keeps talking about how much he loves to eat paint chips.

My use of caps was not meant to offend by shouting

No, you certainly wouldn’t want to offend all those stupid moron dumbshits.

Don’t try to cloud your error with semantics!

Law is semantics, Zoon.

Personal Injury: Any violation of an individual’s right, other than his or her rights in property. The term personal injury is not confined to physical injuries.

Okay. In what way does this contradict the statement, "they don’t list defamation as a specialty, but tend to focus on personal injury"?

Personal injury is general, defamation is specific. Just because defamation is a type of personal injury does not mean that everyone who’s experienced with personal injury specializes in defamation.

Putting it in logical terms, "All a are b" does not imply "All b are a."

Entertaining people by insulting those persons we dislike, although some might find it offensive, is protected speech, however broadcasting statements about another person that are objectively false is not, whether they are malicious or not!

One: You’re wrong. Bob Murray is a public figure. The legal standard for defamation of a public figure requires actual malice.

Two: You have now written a total of 24 paragraphs across 3 posts. In those 24 paragraphs, I count 9 exclamation points, 5 ad hominems, and exactly zero examples of "statements about another person that are objectively false".

I guess you just didn’t have room for any, what with all those exclamation points.

Anonymous Coward says:

John Oliver’s recorded statements in his show were clearly communicated to humiliate Mr. Murray and others. I think a contrary assessment will be indefensible in court.

Mr. Oliver repeatedly used information from the government agency that was a player in the tragic events of August 6 and 16 of 2007. Mr. Oliver had knowledge of an independent report to the contrary, a report you and I can access at anytime, in fact he received copies from plaintiff’s attorneys of all rebutting evidence.

I suggest you read the reports, paying special attention to the phrases this webpage mischaracterizes as being bracketed for the purpose of making fun of the experts, in the above article.

The report from MSHA is titled:

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION COAL MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH REPORT OF INVESTIGATION Underground Coal Mine Fatal Underground Coal Burst Accidents August 6 and 16, 2007 Crandall Canyon Mine Genwal Resources Inc Huntington, Emery County, Utah ID No. 42-01715

Then there is an Independent Review prepared at the direction of the Secretary of Labor:

Independent Review of MSHA’s Actions at Crandall Canyon Mine Genwal Resources, Incorporated Huntington, Emery County, Utah Prepared for: Elaine L. Chao Secretary of Labor United States Department of Labor 200 Constitution Ave., N.W. Washington, DC 20210 By: Earnest C. Teaster, Jr. Joseph W. Pavlovich July 21, 2008

These publications were made available to and have been available to the public nearly 10 years.

Here you will find the truthful assessment of the events.
Please note that MSHA was a key player in the events leading up to the accident. Also note that MSHA had some major responsibility in the accident due to their failure to adhere to policy, their lack of employee training, and communication failures.

“Instead of parroting what others have said regarding the truthfulness of Mr. Oliver’s statements, read the facts he had at his disposal and see that he chose to report part of them with full knowledge those facts were outdated and corrected, to purposely humiliate and damage Mr. Murray and others.

…Just because government experts say so, it doesn’t make it true, especially when their actions and in-actions were partly responsible for the outcome!

You didn’t expect the goverment to implicate themselves did you?

Anonymous Coward says:

Like I should hold your hand to show what statements Oliver made that were false so you in turn can parrot back to me other peoples rebuttle.

Read the fucking reports. I know you haven’t, that’s why you make fun of the filing instead of talking about what is contained in the report by MSHA and the findings of the Indepedent Review.

Time will show you that you are wrong, but your arrogance will not be affected.

Anonymous Coward says:

Thad, you can call defamation a specialty if you want, but it really is a general tort.

Perhaps you need to brush up on your legal definitions.

In the context of the First Amendment, public officials and public figures must satisfy a standard that proves actual malice in order to recover for libel or slander. The standard is based upon the seminal case of new york times v. sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S. Ct. 710, 11 L. Ed. 2d 686 (1964), where the Supreme Court held that public officials and public figures cannot be awarded damages unless they prove that the person accused of making the false statement did so with knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity of the statement. Demonstrating malice in this context does not require the plaintiff to show that the person uttering the statement showed ill will or hatred toward the public official or public figure.

Murray’s attorneys will have no problem showing Mr. Oliver repeated others false statements and made false statements of his own about the character and intentions of Mr. Murray, and did so with full knowledge they were false because they provided documentation of their falsity before he published them on the air.

Zoongide (profile) says:

If John Oliver didn’t read or believe Murray’s attorney’s presentation he should have.

I can see John Oliver on the stand now:

Oliver: But Your Honor, I honestly didn’t believe the material they sent me. His attorneys don’t specialize in defamation! [grin]

Judge: Zinger of a defense Mr. Oliver, Not!

Reckless disregard of the truth:

Disregard of the truth or falsity of a defamatory statement by a person who is highly aware of its probable falsity or entertains serious doubts about its truth or when there are obvious reasons to doubt the veracity and accuracy of a source [the knowingly false statement and the false statement made with reckless disregard of the truth , do not enjoy constitutional protection “Garrison v. Louisiana , 379 U.S. 64 (1964)”]

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If John Oliver didn’t read or believe Murray’s attorney’s presentation he should have.

Okay, now you’re just throwing jokes around in place of arguments.

Oliver was and is under no obligations to base his statements on what Murray might have wanted him to say, and was perfectly justified in saying that the government report didn’t match what Murray said, even if Murray presented his own evidence.

If you want to say that making statements based upon government investigations into something is defamation you’re essentially saying that the government report was wrong, Oliver knew or should have known that it was wrong, and made his statements with malicious intent in order to make demonstrably untrue statements of fact(opinions don’t count) regarding Murray and his company.

That being said, I’ll ask again. What, exactly, did Oliver say that would meet that criteria?

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