What is it about coal companies that causes them to have the sensitivity of an adolescent school girl? Last Spring I wrote a column about Robert Murray and several of his energy companies filing a libel lawsuit that was so ridiculous it led to an Ohio Appellate Court calling on the Ohio Legislature to pass anti-SLAPP legislation to stop others from trying the same tactic. That led to one of Murray’s lawyers writing a column saying I didn’t know “Jack” (clever) about the case.
Now the Peabody Energy Corp. is trying to make the Murray folks look reasonable by comparison. Peabody recently filed a motion to strike from a federal lawsuit lyrics from the John Prine song “Paradise.” Lawyers for the plaintiffs included these lyrics in the introduction to their complaint:
“And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
“Down by the Green River where Paradise lay?
“Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking “Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.”
Now, I could understand if this guy was upset:
Click here to view image.
But I don’t quite get why Peabody Energy felt the need to file a motion in federal court over some words in a complaint. Neither did Magistrate Kelly Rankin, who denied the motion. In her view, while the song lyrics add little if any relevant information to the complaint, they weren’t so disconnected, inflammatory or prejudicial as to merit removal. And for good measure, she noted: “Furthermore, as the lyrics have existed since 1971, it is difficult to see how the inclusion of the lyrics in plaintiff’s complaint prejudices defendant Peabody to a greater extent.” In short, she invoked the spirit of the Eagles song “Get Over It.”
The irony of course, is that if the Peabody lawyers were concerned with the connection between the lyrics and their client’s company, they have now ensured that many, many more people will see it than if they merely left well enough alone. The dozens of people who read my blog for example would never have heard about this but for their motion. They may want to study up on another singer – specifically Barbara Streisand. And the effect that bears her name.