Bob Murray runs coal companies. He also sues people. Prolifically. And unsuccessfully (at least seven cases dismissed).
In June 2017, John Oliver’s HBO program, Last Week Tonight, featured reporting on the coal industry. When Oliver reached out to Murray Energy in preparing his show, he received a cease and desist letter from Murray’s corporation stating:
“… cease and desist from any effort to defame, harass, or otherwise injure Mr. Murray or Murray Energy.” And “[f]ailure to do so will result in immediate litigation….” And it will “pursue our damages to the fullest extent of the law, including to the level of the Supreme Court of the United States….”
“Let us do neither of those things [cease and desist] and let’s talk about Bob Murray.”
“Bob Murray, I didn’t really plan for so much of this piece to be about you, but you kind of forced my hand on that one. And I know you are probably going to sue me, but you know what? I stand by everything I said.”
And sue, Murray did. Just a few of the [completely frivolous] allegations:
Oliver and HBO attempted “to advance their biases against the coal industry and their disdain for the coal-related policies of the Trump Administration.” Complaint ¶ 3.
“… employed techniques designed solely to … embarrass Plaintiffs”. ¶ 5
“… childishly demeaned and disparaged Bob Murray and his companies, made jokes about Bob Murrary’s age, health, and appearance….” ¶ 5
Instead of focusing on what Murray wanted Oliver to talk about, Oliver and HBO “ignored them and ‘doubled-down’…, ending their recorded broadcast with the phrases ‘Eat Shit, Bob’ and ‘Kiss my ass, Bob.'” ¶ 21
These (and many more) allegations are conveniently provided in the amicus brief of the West Virginia ACLU in support of Oliver and the First Amendment. The brief is brilliant on a number of fronts, most particularly its use of headings. One heading – from which the title of this post originated – is “Anyone Can Legally Say ‘Eat Shit, Bob!'”. You can read the brief here.
Murray’s suit also helps to expose the lie that tort cases are the problem with our Justice system… that it’s the brain damaged babies, paralyzed children, or mothers and fathers killed by defective products that are clogging our courts. They aren’t. It’s people like Bob Murray and corporations like Murray Energy.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that “Americans… are filing far fewer lawsuits. Fewer than two in 1,000 people [0.002] – the alleged victims of inattentive motorists, medical malpractice, faulty products and other civil wrongs – filed tort lawsuits in 2015 ….”
In fact, tort lawsuits – lawsuits based on injuries or death due to a defective product or negligence – total less than 5% of all civil court filings. Contract cases – like those for debt collection and foreclosure – account for more than half of all lawsuits pending. Other cases are unfounded attempts at bullying or silencing opposition.
Fake news organizations like the Institute for Legal Reform and American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) keep peddling the lie that “there are too many lawsuits in the country.” They ignore the truth and use sensational attacks to try and convince the public to surrender our constitutional right to civil justice and trial by jury.
When people like Bob Murray and corporations like Murray Energy file baseless lawsuits, it hurts all of us. But it’s not injured victims who are the problem. It’s people and corporations like Murray – abusing the system to stifle speech, abuse a competitor, or avoid fair criticism – who are the problem. Phony suits like Murray’s waste our tax dollars. And these phony suits poison jurors against plaintiffs who really are hurt and only increase the burden on the paralyzed mother or orphaned child who has no recourse but the courts to make sure that justice is served.
Bob Murray should be ashamed of himself. He tried to stifle criticism against him. Let’s make sure that backfires. Watch (and share) the clip below.
Jamie Lynn Crofts, WV ACLU, Amicus Brief in Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Temporary Restraining Order
Joe Palazzolo, WSJ, We Won’t See You In Court: The Era of Tort Lawsuits Is Waning