WHEELING – Robert Murray has asked for a temporary restraining order to stop comedian and political commentator John Oliver from talking about the lawsuit and to stop HBO from rebroadcasting the June 18 episode.
The plaintiffs are seeking to protect the wellbeing and property of those affected by the lawsuit and the potential pool of West Virginia jurors, according to the June 28 motion for temporary restraining order.
“Seeking court intervention in this manner comes as a last resort following plaintiffs’ request for a voluntary agreement from defendants, which defense counsel refused, notwithstanding defendants’ awareness of these facts and, significantly, Mr. Murray’s serious health condition and the harassment resulting from the show that is specified in the complaint,” the motion states.
To prevent further imminent and irreparable harm, the plaintiffs are requesting the order enjoining the rebroadcast of the program at issue in this litigation and prohibiting the defendants from using their unique powers, through their access to millions of West Virginians, to bias the potential jurors who will determine their fate, according to the motion.
Since the airing of the June 18 episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” the plaintiffs have been harassed by those who viewed the episode, including Murray Energy’s website twice receiving more than 30,000 spam messages within a 20-minute window in an effort to “crash” the website.
A third, potentially more damaging attack, received from multiple sources, forced Murray Energy to take its website down June 20 to implement new, increased security measures. Threats of physical harm and property damage have only increased since the complaint was filed, according to the motion.
The plaintiffs say they have continuously been harassed by numerous telephone calls that have subjected employees to threats and vulgarities and tied up the telephone lines, preventing timely communications with the plaintiffs’ customers and vendors.
“These attacks caught plaintiffs’ innocent employees in the crossfire — employees who, by any measure of descent humanity, should not be subject to the vulgarities asserted by defendants’ viewership,” the motion states.
The "John Oliver Effect" goes far beyond incessant and demeaning communications that plaintiffs and their employees have had to suffer through, according to the motion.
“Given the relentless attacks that defendants have encouraged, including on plaintiffs’ website, telephones and emails systems and the attendant diversion of IT personnel to respond to these attacks, plaintiffs have a grave concern that individuals might attempt to infiltrate or harm Murray Energy’s electronic network of safety systems,” the motion states.
As a result of the constant rebroadcasting of the defamatory statements and the hateful conduct, Murray has suffered and will continue to suffer irreparable injury to his health so long as he and his companies are under attack, according to the motion.
The lawsuit was removed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia at Wheeling on June 30. The defendants claim because Oliver and Senior News Producer Charles Wilson live in New York and HBO, Time Warner and Partially Important Productions are Delaware Corporations and have principal places of business in New York, complete diversity exists between them and the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit was initially filed June 21 in Marshall Circuit Court. The plaintiffs claimed the callous, vicious and false attack upon Murray and his companies was the defendants’ most recent attempt to advance their biases against the coal industry and their disdain for the coal-related policies of the Trump Administration.
“In carrying out their self-serving attack on Mr. Murray and his companies, however, Defendants ignored facts in their possession that directly contradict the false and defamatory statements about Mr. Murray and his companies that they improperly passed off as truths to the nation and throughout the world,” the complaint stated.
The plaintiffs claimed the defendants childishly demeaned and disparaged Murray and his companies; made jokes about Murray’s age, health and appearance; made light of a tragic mining incident; and broadcasted false statements and incited television and Internet viewers to do harm to Murray and his companies.
In the June 18 broadcast, the defendants deliberately omitted facts that the plaintiffs provided regarding a previous mine incident and made no mention of the efforts Murray personally made to save the trapped miners.
The plaintiffs claim that toward the end of the broadcast, Oliver confirmed that the defendants intentionally expanded their attack against Murray and the plaintiffs as retaliation for the plaintiffs’ good faith efforts to ensure the accuracy of the broadcast.
In the broadcast, Oliver stated, “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,” the complaint states.
The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages. They are being represented by Jeffrey A. Grove and David L. Delk Jr. of Grove, Holmstrand & Delk.
HBO is represented by Robert P. Fitzsimmons and Clayton J. Fitzsimmons of Fitzsimmons Law Firm.
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia case number: 5:17-cv-00099