John Oliver and HBO are facing a lawsuit that could be really bad news for them.
Robert Murray, head of a coal-based energy company in West Virginia, was the subject of an episode of Oliver’s show, Last Week Tonight, where Oliver made the case that Murray’s company is at fault for a mine collapse that killed nine people, which is what federal officials ruled after the incident in 2007. Murray claimed an earthquake caused the collapse, and now he’s suing Oliver and HBO — as well as The New York Times — for defamation.
According to several legal experts, including the ACLU, Murray’s case is frivolous and should be thrown out. But Mashable reports that Murray recently won a couple of court victories that could help his case advance. After HBO successfully got the case moved to federal court, a judge ruled in Murray’s favor that it should instead go forward in West Virginia, giving Murray a home-field advantage that could work in his favor. The same judge chose not to dismiss Murray’s case against The New York Times.
Even if the case doesn’t advance very far, Murray has a lot of money to put into it, and his goal could be simply to fight until Oliver and HBO are crippled financially, Mashable argues. That’s what happened to media site Gawker when it was sued by Hulk Hogan — billionaire Peter Thiel financed that lawsuit and Gawker was bankrupted and forced to shut down before the case could be dismissed.
West Virginia is also one of a few states that is lacking laws that help defendants of frivolous lawsuits avoid financial ruin from drawn-out court battles.
Luckily, HBO is behind Oliver in this fight, with a strong legal team and plenty of cash. Hopefully, it’s enough to put up a fight against Murray and his grudge.