CAN CORPORATIONS SUFFER "MENTAL ANGUISH AND EMOTIONAL DISTRESS?"

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By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  Black lung disease, a condition caused by coal mining, was the topic of a radio ad by Public Citizen that promoted Murray Energy to sue, claiming rights until now reserved for people

November 27, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – An energy corporation is suing Public Citizen, a nonprofit citizens’ watchdog group, claiming that radio ads run by the group caused the company to suffer “mental anguish and emotional distress.”

Murray Energy, a major coal mining corporation is now claiming that Citizens United — the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that has allowed unlimited election spending by billionaires and big business, may also give corporations privacy rights previously belonging only to people.

Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, calls the claim a “bizarre twist” in Murray Energy’s lawsuit. Public Citizen’s radio ads drew attention to the company’s efforts to block new rules that are intended to help protect workers including preventing black lung disease and air pollution.

In May, Murray sued The U.S. Department of Labor seeking to block the new worker safety rules for protecting coal miners and clean air protections. When Public Citizen aired hard-hitting radio ads (view text and hear audio here) showing the plight of a miner stricken with black lung disease, Murray then sued Public Citizen as well.

After Public Citizen filed a motion seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, the company argued that the ads“invaded its privacy” and caused it “mental anguish and emotional distress.”

Remember, Murray Energy is a company,” Weissman states in a letter sent to supporters seeking donations to fund fighting back against Murray’s lawsuit. “But in this post-Citizens United, “corporations are people” world, companies claim to have human privacy that can be invaded and human feelings that can be hurt…As if invoking Citizens United to claim a right intended for living, breathing human beings isn’t radical enough, Murray Energy goes even further, suggesting that it is willing to make this lawsuit about the truth of climate science itself.”

He adds, “It could be the Scopes Monkey Trial all over again.”

A hearing in the case is scheduled for December 9.