The Marshall County Coal Company et al v. Oliver et al
Memorandum in Opposition re 3 MOTION to Remand to State Court filed by Home Box Office, Inc.. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1, # 2 Exhibit 2, # 3 Exhibit 3, # 4 Exhibit 4, # 5 Exhibit 5)(Fitzsimmons, Robert)
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PHONE: (740) 338-3100
FAX: (740) 338-3405
June 16, 2017
VIA E-MAIL AND OVERNIGHT
Mr. Samuel M. Bayard, Esq.
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
1251 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 10020-1104
Second Cease and Desist Making False and Defamatory Statements
Against Robert E. Murray and Murray Energy Corporation
Dear Mr. Bayard:
This letter responds to your letter dated June 15, 2017, and the e-mail to me
from Mr. Charles Wilson, Senior News Producer for Home Box Office, Inc.’s Last Week
Tonight with John Oliver television program, dated June 15, 2017 and enclosed as
Exhibit A, containing various follow-up questions and materials in regard to a
segment scheduled for June 18, 2017. In his correspondence, Mr. Wilson indicates
that show will be about the coal industry and it is your client’s intention to include
material specific to Mr. Robert E. Murray and Murray Energy Corporation (“Murray
Energy”). We, once again, insist that you cease and desist from any effort to defame,
harass, or otherwise injure Mr. Murray or Murray Energy. Failure to do so will result
in immediate litigation, as we have filed in the past, including our recent lawsuit
against The New York Times, which contains some of the falsehoods that Home Box
Office, Inc. intends to publish.
Indeed, Mr. Wilson’s recent e-mail makes clear that you not only plan to
regurgitate previously published malicious false statements, but you also intend to
focus on topics of the most incendiary, demeaning nature. Broadcast of this material
will severely harm the reputation of Mr. Murray and Murray Energy, which is
obvious defamation and cast them in a false light before the public. Once again, in
the interest of promulgating the truth, the following examines each topic in more
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Supposed Workforce Reductions in 2012
As we said before, very few of the layoffs that were announced in 2012,
thankfully, materialized. We had to give a WARN Act notice as a precaution in
advance of some perceived coal market and mine geological conditions that could
occur. They did not.
But, none of the employee layoffs had anything to do with Mr. Murray’s writing
following the recent election of Barack Obama. All layoffs contemplated were the
result of coal market and mining condition problems. For you to try to, once again,
connect Mr. Murray’s writing to any employee layoff in our Companies would be
libelous, as we are giving you the facts that we will prove.
The Accident at Crandall Canyon
Again, joking about this accident is cruel and, no doubt, will cause emotional
pain and suffering to many families and many of our employees, managers, and
executives, including Mr. Murray. Miners lost their lives and others were injured by
this horrible tragedy. The accident has had a lasting impact on many families, many
of our employees, and our Company. Mr. Murray, himself, went into that Mine for
twenty-eight (28) straight days to lead in the rescue effort, and the trauma for those
involved and Mr. Murray has been very great.
Nevertheless, it is clear that you have sifted through certain Crandall Canyon
related media statements to find what you believe to be some of the most incendiary
and provocative material possible.
What you obviously fail to comprehend, from reading media reports a decade
after this accident occurred, is how the tragedy played out over the course of a month
in August, 2007, as well as the enormous pressure that had been placed on Mr.
Murray, personally, to try and rescue the miners who had become trapped in the
mountain and simultaneously deal with the families’ needs. Again, Mr. Murray was
at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah within four (4) hours of the accident occurring
and spent the next twenty-eight (28) days on that mountain overseeing the massive
rescue efforts, and administering to the families, that were being followed closely by
almost every major news organization in America.
When he arrived at the Mine, the University of Utah broadcast that an
earthquake had occurred with an epicenter of 4.7 miles from the Crandall Canyon
Mine. As the major Joe’s Valley Fault was nearby, this was the logical conclusion,
which was eventually borne out by studies weeks after the incident. The University
of Utah did try to withdraw their earlier statement, due to the criticism during the
rescue effort. But, in the end, what they originally stated was confirmed.
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Mr. Murray was unable to satisfy the expectations of the public and the family
members of the trapped miners, but he and his team worked around the clock to try
and rescue the miners, and daily he showed honesty, sincerity and compassion in his
communications and dealings with the public and, particularly, the families. One
would expect that the many hourly meetings with the families of the trapped miners
always would have gone smoothly or would have been free of emotion. These
meetings were as frequent as throughout every day, and we provided a plane for all
of the trapped miners’ families. Those were tense, painful times. Arm-chair
quarterbacking and joking about such heartfelt, passionate issues, even years after
the fact, is callous, disrespectful, and damaging. Everyone was trying their hardest
to rescue the trapped miners. Over $45 million and over four hundred (400) people
were committed to the rescue, as “there is no price on a human life,” Mr. Murray
stated then, when he was asked about it.
More particularly, in response to Mr. Wilson’s reference to Mr. Mike Marasco,
son-in-law of Mr. Kerry Allred, a miner, the referenced statements occurred during
“testimony” coordinated by the United Mine Workers of America (“UMWA”) and the
law firm that later represented the families in civil litigation. Crandall Canyon was
not a union-represented mine. In the video, the attorneys are sitting directly behind
Mr. Marasco. The statement he was reading had been prepared, at least in part, by
his attorneys and the UMWA, and not by him.
Finally, in regard to publicly available studies indicating that the collapse was
initiated by a seismic event originating near the Joe’s Valley Fault Zone, see, for
A. Kubacki, T., K. Koper, K.L. Pankow and M.K. McCarter (2014). Changes in
mining induced seismicity before and after the 2007 Crandall Canyon Mine
Collapse, J. Geophys. Res., doi: 10.1002/2014JB011037.
a. “Lineations apparent in the newly detected events have strikes similar
to those of known vertical joints in the mine region, which may have
played a role in the collapse.”
b. “At Crandall Canyon, however, there is a notable spatial gap in
seismicity between the western event clusters and the seismicity to the
B. From Appendix S to the MSHA Report, titled “Back-Analysis of the Crandall
Canyon Mine Using the LaModel Program,” Keith A. Heasley, Ph.D., P.E. West
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a. “This [particular] analysis indicates that a sudden change in stresses
due to slip along a joint in the roof certainly could have been a factor in
triggering the collapse seen on August 6th.” (at page 36)
i. The USGS defines an “earthquake” as “both sudden slip on a
fault, and the resulting ground shaking and radiated seismic
energy caused by the slip”
b. “From the modeling, it was not clear exactly what triggered the August
collapse. . . . Likely candidates include: . . . a joint slip in the overburden.
. . .” (at pages 43-44)
C. From “Seismological Report on the 6 Aug 2007 Crandall Canyon Mine Collapse
in Utah,” University of Utah Dept. of Geology and Geophysics (relied upon by
a. This report was relied on by the Federal Mine Safety and Health
Administration, but they said it was not determinative.
b. In a discussion of the source mechanism, “the first motion data alone do
not provide definitive results because normal-faulting mechanisms can
also be fit to the data.” (at page 19)
c. Concluding that “most [but not all] of the seismic wave energy in this
event was generated by the mine collapse and not by a naturally
d. The University of Utah also relocated the epicenter of the initial seismic
event to the western edge of the Mine, close to the Joe’s Valley Fault
Again, Mr. Murray only repeated what the University of Utah initially publicly
broadcast about the seismic event and was, in the end, correct in his original
assessment that an earthquake caused the mine collapse. It was proven that the
triggering event of the Crandall Canyon Mine preceded the collapse by approximately
two (2) seconds and occurred in the Joe’s Valley Fault Zone.
We are competent mining engineers, as is Mr. Murray, and we knew all along
that the small amount of mining in a small area by one (1) continuous mining unit,
could not cause the huge collapse of the entire mountain over the Crandall Canyon
Mine. It had to be related to the huge faults in the earth at the location, and has so
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Complaints of Messrs. Harrison and Stolzenfels
Your mine safety data is incorrect and mischaracterized. When comparing
these figures, you must note that a particular mine’s incident rate depends on the
reporting standards of that mine. There is often little consistency in the reporting
from company-to-company. Murray Energy properly teaches its miners to report
every injury, regardless of how insignificant they may be, which we believe makes our
rate appear higher than at comparable mines owned and operated by others.
Also, you should be aware that the comparison to the national averages does
not take into consideration the severity of the injuries (virtually all of ours are very
minor), the different types of mines, or the regional differences in geology and mining
conditions. In other words, the comparisons and conclusions that you appear to
intend to make likely are false and misleading. You cannot take the data that you
cite and make any conclusion relative to the safety of the miners, unless you are an
expert, and Home Box Office, Inc. is not. Nearly all of the “injuries” shown were very
minor (pinched fingers, etc.), but our Companies report them all.
When comparing actual lost time injuries, on a per ton basis, for similarly
situated underground coal mines, Murray Energy operates amongst the safest coal
mines in the Country. For you to report otherwise would be false and damaging.
Defamation is Not Protected by First Amendment
In response to your letter, you should note that the First Amendment does not
give reporters the right to say anything, anywhere, to anyone, and that there is no
constitutional value in false statements of fact. Gertz v. Robert Welch Inc., 418 U.S.
323, 340 (1974). “Neither the intentional lie nor the careless error materially
advances society’s interest in ‘uninhibited, robust, and wide-open’ debate on public
issues.” Gertz v. Robert Welch Inc., 418 U.S. 323, 340 (1974) (quoting N.Y. Times Co.
v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. at 270).
Murray Energy has aggressively protected its reputation in the past against
various false and malicious statements and will continue to do so. False statements
are particularly valueless and cause real damage to an individual’s or company’s
reputation that cannot easily be repaired. Courts have noted that, “Society has a
pervasive and strong interest in preventing and redressing attacks upon
reputation.” Mehta v. Ohio Univ., 194 Ohio App. 3d 844, 856 (Franklin Cnty.
2011). Even among public figures, defamation — that tort “[w]hose sting is sharper
than the sword’s” (Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale, act 2, sc. 3.) — can leave scars
that demand redress. Your client will be responsible for its abuse of the right.
Your clients have dredged up every possible negative story to place Mr. Robert
E. Murray and Murray Energy Corporation in a false light. You are basing your
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program on anything negative that you can find. We have no idea what the false,
decades old “squirrel” story of the United Mine Workers was about. It never occurred.
Mr. Murray is extremely respected for his commitment to coal miner safety.
He has pioneered Emergency Response and Fire Suppression Training in the coal
industry, over many decades. He has provided employment to as many as 8,400 coal
mining families at one time and has fought for the retiree medical and pension
benefits for coal miners that never worked in his Company. He is a very charitable
man who has generously benefitted our miners, miner families, and our communities.
He believes that his Lord, Jesus Christ, built Murray Energy’s Mines and has kept
them so very safe.
We will not sit idly by when attacked with false lies that seek to incite, smear,
and cause damage to the reputation of Mr. Murray or Murray Energy. Mr. Murray is
seventy-seven (77) years old and depends on a generated oxygen supply to live. But,
he still works seven (7) days per week for his employees and Company. Home Box
Office will make a huge mistake in your attempt to destroy his lifelong reputation.
As you know, Murray Energy just sued The New York Times for citing some of
the same false former media reports as Home Box Office, Inc. intends to regurgitate
in your program. Ask Knight Ridder or the Akron Beacon Journal what happened
from their false statements about Murray Energy.
It is apparent that you intend to damage Mr. Murray by reciting any negative
aspect that can you can dredge up. Home Box Office, Inc. is in for the fight of its
existence, if you do so.
Please advise as to what course of action your client will take.
MURRAY ENERGY CORPORATION
Gary M. Broadbent
Senior Corporate Counsel and
Director of Investor and Media Relations
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June 15, 2017 Email From Mr. Charles Wilson
From: Charles Wilson
Sent: Thursday, June 15, 2017 7:14 PM
To: Broadbent, Gary
Subject: Murray Energy/"Last Week Tonight" follow‐up
I have reviewed your June 12th letter, and our show’s legal counsel has responded separately to it.
I reiterate our attorney’s letter’s assertion that I welcome any continuing communication with an
appropriate person who will be directly responsive to my queries, either on the record or just on
I have included below some brief follow‐ups to the material included in your letter, as well as a small
amount of additional material for review by the appropriate person at Murray Energy—all of which is
material being considered for possible inclusion in the episode.
If someone could get back to me by late tomorrow (Friday, June 16th), I’d be most grateful.
Senior News Producer
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
*November 2012 workforce reductions
*Your letter notes that many of the 156 layoffs announced the day after the federal election in 2012
“did not materialize,” but you do not specify how many. If you could provide information on which
layoffs did not materialize of those reported 156, I would be grateful.
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*Your letter refers to recent studies indicating that the collapse was caused by a seismic event
originating in Joe’s Valley Fault Zone. Could you please send us those studies or provide citations for
*We wondered if Mr. Murray disputed—or wanted to provide additional context for—any of the
account on p. 106 from the Independent Review of MSHA’s Actions at Crandall Canyon mine:
*We wondered if Murray Energy disputed the characterization of Mike Marasco, son‐in‐law of miner
Kerry Allred, in this Congressional testimony: (20 minutes, 33 seconds): “The manner in which Murray
and MSHA dealt with us for the first 2 weeks after the collapse was unbelievable. They just told us what
we wanted to hear and not the facts. All we heard was earthquake, earthquake. We did not want to
hear about earthquakes but wanted to know when we were going to see our loved ones again. Murray
more than once yelled at us when we asked questions.”
*Stolzenfels and Harrison cases
*You say in your letter that Murray Energy Corporation “prides itself on running the safest coal mines in
the country.” MSHA data provided to us in our reporting indicated that the injury incident rate at the
Marion County mine that was the center of this dispute—from the second quarter of 2016 through the
first quarter of 2017—was 9.19 (compared to the national average of 3.26). And that 189 injuries had
been reported in eight Murray mines from the second quarter of 2016 to first quarter of 2017:
Marion county mine: 9.19 the incident rate, 46 injuries
Powhatan #6: 7.88 incident rate, 17 injuries
Monongalia County: 7.67 incident rate, 26 injuries
Marshall County: 6.25 incident rate, 53 injuries
Marshall County River load out: 4.03 injury rate, 1 injury
Harrison County: 3.64 injury rate, 17 injuries
Ohio County: 3.2 injury rate, 17 injuries
Century mine: 3.20 injury rate, 12 injuries
*Does Murray Energy dispute the accuracy of this data?
*Does this data contradict Murray’s assertion that it runs the “safest coal mines in the country”?
*Columbia Journalism Review’s representation of Murray’s defamation lawsuits:
*We wanted to make sure that the Columbia Journalism Review had represented your response fairly in
an article about past defamation suits. Namely, that the company maintains “very good working
relationships” with many news outlets, and that defamation suits are only “a last resort” and that the
company has “never used defamation lawsuits to chill free speech.”
*We wanted to make sure that the individual defamation suits are properly referenced/contextulaized
in The Columbia Journalism Review’s article. Does Murray Energy dispute the Columbia Journalism
Review’s reporting on any of the following defamation lawsuits?
*Columbia Journalism Review article:
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http://archives.cjr.org/united states project/murray energy defamation lawsuits huffington post.ph
*Murray Energy has sued a contributor to the Huffington Post.
*Murray Energy threatened to sue an editor of Coal Age over an editorial that had claimed that the coal
industry “takes the ostrich approach when Bob Murray takes the microphone, hoping that he will go
away soon and no one will notice.”
*Murray Energy sued over four statements in an Akron Beacon Journal article. [Separately, does Murray
Energy consider the following quote about this lawsuit accurate? “McKown noted that Murray's suit
does not actually demand $1 billion in damages (which it could not do legally), but does contend that this
figure reflects the potential economic losses the plaintiffs feel could be caused by the story."
*Murray Energy sued a team of journalists at Ohio’s Chagrin Valley Times for a piece that suggested “…
he manages through ‘intimidation,’ that his employees ‘have no voice,’ and that he’s a ‘bully.’”
*Dispute with UMWA over “squirrel” story:
*A 2001 “UMWA Journal” article had included this anecdote: “Ask most of the miners working at the
Maple Creek or Powhatan No. 6 mines to tell you owner/operator Robert Murray’s squirrel story and
you’re in for a treat. The way Murray tells it, he had just been let go in 1987 as CEO of North American
Coal Company and was feeling extremely down about the whole situation. At home one day, Murray
was sitting on his back porch, contemplating his future, when he was approached by a squirrel. Murray
says the squirrel hopped up next to him, looked him square in the eye and said “Bob Murray, you should
be operating your very own mines.“
*I hadn’t seen a direct response from Murray Energy on this anecdote, but the Salt Lake Tribune Journal
had reported this in November of 2007: “Later, he studied mining engineering on a scholarship and
worked his way up in the coal industry, rising to CEO at North American Coal before he was dismissed in
1987. That’s when, according to the union’s Journal, Murray had a conversation with a squirrel who
advised him to buy his first coal mine. This part of his lore makes officials at Murray Energy curse the
union for spreading false rumors. Nonetheless, the tale lives on among saloon patrons in mining towns.
Although Bob Murray is not easily defined, it’s clear that he has strong opinions and is not easily
*I just wanted to make sure that this article expressed Murray Energy’s position on this anecdote—that
the story regarding the squirrel was a “false rumor” spread by the union.
That is all. I appreciate your time.
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