Judge Dismisses MEC Defamation Lawsuit Against HBO

On February 21, Federal Court Judge Jeffrey Cramer threw out a defamation case filed by Murray Energy Corp. (MEC) against Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) and “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” host John Oliver that stemmed from a broadcast that criticized the coal industry and MEC and its CEO Robert Murray specifically.

In his ruling, Judge Cramer said he agreed with arguments made by the defendants that the plaintiff failed to state a claim. He said their arguments were “well-founded” and “appropriate.”

“The court adopts, with little exception, defendants’ arguments in support of their motion regarding all issues addressed in the same,” Cramer said.

"This decision contains absolutely no legal reasoning, whatsoever, and instead blindly adopts the defendants deeply flawed arguments," said Gary Broadbent, Murray Energy senior corporate counsel and director of investor and media relations. "This is a flagrant disregard of the law, the facts, and the substantial damages intentionally inflicted by the defendants."

He said MEC will immediately appeal the decision and would prevail.

In the lawsuit, MEC alleged defamation stemming from the June 18 broadcast of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” MEC claimed that Oliver implied Murray was a liar when he previously stated that an earthquake caused by the Crandall Canyon mine collapse, which took the lives of nine employees, and insinuated that Murray disregarded the well-being of his employees. Oliver also described Murray as looking like a geriatric Dr. Evil.

Prior to the HBO broadcast, MEC said it sent HBO two letters, on June 12 and June 16, and had a lengthy conference call with their counsel on June 17 to correct what they knew of “their proposed false and destructive broadcast and present the facts to them.” Time Warner and HBO, according to MEC, ignored the communications and aired the episode.