By now, I bet you’ve heard that Chief Oil & Gas has brought suit against a few landowners for $20,000,000. But, what does this mean TO YOU? Did you catch Chief’s comment that this lawsuit is more than punitive? It is meant “to deter… others like them from engaging in such conduct in the future.”
That “other” is you.
Maybe it’s not you today. But it will be you as soon as you have a confict with a gas company. You see, the landowners being sued were upset that a pipeline was going through their subdivision (which has a rule against pipelines). So, they made a fuss. This is America– so, that’s their right.
But not so fast. Exercising their right to free speech, on Facebook specifically, is exactly the reason why Chief is suing the families. Chief claims the families caused loss to Chief’s reputation. No doubt, the hubris of the oil and gas industry has yet to be fully understood– one simple question is begged by Chief’s lawsuit: Where is the empirical evidence that Cheif Oil & Gas has good reputation to preserve in the first place???
Just because a corporation says it has a good reputation does not mean it is true. In logic, this is called an ipse dixit statement– literally “he himself said it.” (You know, like the way God calls forth existence by his word– well, Chief’s trying to invent something just by saying so, too.) Just because a corporation says it is better than other corporations isn’t enough. They need empirical evidence to back-up their claim. Showing that they give money away to community charities isn’t enough, by the way.
Why? Because the reputation in question is one about environmental and public health and safety concern… there is no concern revolving around facades of false generosity. No dog is fooled by corporate “generosity”– and the humans are definitely catching on. So… what other data exists to support this baseline of an outstanding reputation?
No doubt, this story will be bobbing around in the blogosphere for quite some time. The strategy is well known, and we’ll see where it leads… does the industry “win” by targeting a few families and pushing them into bankruptcy? Can a corporation really claim that a few Facebook comments on a page with less than 4,000 fans truly cost $20million in damages?
I guess I never knew these corporations crumbled so easily. Maybe that reputation wasn’t as strong as they thought… hmmm… in that case, their claim actually debases their claim.
–“We had an outstanding reputation and those antifrackers ruined it!”
–“Really? If it was so strong, then why did it collapse under a few antifrackers’ Facebook comments?”
Even though I haven’t practiced law in years, I still think like a lawyer. Being a lawyer is like being an alcoholic: You never really get over it, you just go into recovery. As a lawyer, I tend to presume there are two sides to any issue in which a lawsuit gets filed. If there is not, it will be dismissed soon enough.
In defamation, the plaintiff does not have to prove they have a “good” reputation. It might be possible for the defendants to claim, as a defense, that the plaintiff already had such a bad reputation that their statements did no real harm. But the bad reputation would have to be concerning the same matter as the alleged defamatory statements and the burden of proof would be on the defendants.
I don’t know what the allegedly defamatory statements were in this case. When made about an individual, statements about a person’s professional competency, or ability to do their job, are considered defamatory per se, meaning damage can be presumed and do not have to be proven. I assume something like that could be the case here.
(btw, the Facebook statements seem to be related to the tortuous interference claim, not the defamation.)
Kent, when public record has captured the professional incompetency at hand, how could a company sue an individual for stating the public record? Curious!
Of course, the only reason they can sue in the first place is because we gave them that power. As long as people aren’t willing to take that power back, without whining, and without asking, they will fail.
Help I’ve Been Colonized and I Can’t Get Up
Click to access JaneAnneMorris.pdf
Why Abolish All Corporate Constitutional Rights
Thomas Linzey at Bioneers
Eric, Good to have your insight and your support. Keep up your hard work! The more of us who walk around with open eyes, the better — no matter what the species!
Lawsuit was filed to SCARE off anyone else thinking of objecting to Chief (or any other gassers) activities. Will it scare off enough people to be effective, or will people strengthen their resolve, to stand up even taller and stronger to protect their families, homes and community?
Side note: considering how the gassers are concerned about their public image, this type of action does not put them in a favorable light. What it says to the public is “We’ll do whatever we want, and if you object we will sue you”.
This is an old but not that frequently used ploy by corporate types to stomp out opposition, fast. It is called SLAPP litigation. I don’t remember but think it stands for Strategic Litigation Against Public Protestors. Something like that – Google it, it became used a lot in internet defamation-type cases. My experience has been seeing it used in resource extraction and recovery issues and against environmental efforts. They – the corporations, private resource owners and the like – sue for lost profits, defamation, business interruption and the like. They sue big and they get their cases on some kind of fast track whereby the obviously-stunned residents, municipalities, non-profits, etc., when they can finally see straight and comprehend what is happening to them, get screwed. They cannot raise the money and there is always a short fuse. In many states with stacked industry legislatures and courts, like PA, this is an easy tactic for the greedy profiteers and their spin doctors.