Mass Media Companies Prevail in Defamation Lawsuit

In 2010, 29 miners died in one of the worst mining disasters in American history. An investigation into the cause of Massey Energy’s mine explosion resulted in its CEO, Don Blankenship, being charged with three felony counts and one misdemeanor. Mr. Blankenship was ultimately acquitted of the felony charges but found guilty of the misdemeanor offense, which sent him to federal prison for one year. Soon after his release, Mr. Blankenship undertook an unsuccessful run for a West Virginia senate seat. He alleged that media references to him being a “felon” by such organizations as MSNBC, ABC, CNN, and Fox News were defamatory and responsible for his ultimate election loss, injury to his reputation, and economic damages from loss of business opportunities.

Dr. Laura Malowane submitted an expert report on behalf of the media defendants whereby she showed that Mr. Blankenship’s own economic expert failed to analyze how his actual criminal record and tarnished reputation already impacted his professional and political opportunities. Dr. Malowane concluded that no economic losses could be attributed to the media’s alleged defamation. In February 2022, the media defendants prevailed on summary judgment and the case was dismissed. Dr. Malowane was assisted in her work by Dr. Gale Mosteller.