A West Virginia judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Murray Energy against HBO and Last Week Tonight host John Oliver, according to Lawful Masses, a legal website and livestream series hosted by copyright attorney Leonard French. Coal magnate Bob Murray, along with his company, Murray Energy, and other associated coal companies, filed the suit alleging defamation stemming from an episode that aired on June 18, 2017, that examined and exposed the coal companies’ misdeeds. Murray and his company were revealed in the episode to have harassed the families of mine cave-in victims, creating unsafe working environments and ignoring the environmental impact of the coal industry with some clever funnies thrown in.
A personal favorite of ours is Oliver’s squirrel friend, Mr. Nutterbutter (pictured above).
Oliver revealed in the episode that when the show attempted to contact Murray Energy, it received a cease and desist from the company’s legal team. Murray Energy has a history of threatening litigation against media outlets and journalists who are critical of their practices or employees.
The original filing was littered with hyperbolic speech and attempts to garner sympathy that hardly amounted to legal claims. The defendants’ attorneys filed a First Amendment-based motion to dismiss, which a West Virginia judge upheld, ruling that the case should be dismissed with prejudice, which keeps the plaintiffs from filing the charges against Oliver and HBO again.
“The arguments set forth in the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss … well-founded, appropriate in this matter and will grant the same,” reads the ruling.
The ruling does give Murray and the other plaintiffs the opportunity to file an appeal within 30 days, but it also allows the defendants the ability to draft their own victory. Yes, Oliver, HBO and their attorneys will be writing the judge’s statement based on findings and facts that support the court’s rulings. This doesn’t happen often as the task is normally left up to the judge’s clerk.
Here’s hoping those classic Mr. Nutterbutter catchphrases, “Eat shit, Bob” and “Memo Line: Kiss my ass,” make it in there somewhere.
Check out “your favorite copyright attorney” break down the case’s dismissal here and revisit Oliver’s exposé on Murray and the coal industry below.