BPI wants ABC lawsuit returned to SD court

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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SIOUX FALLS, SD – On Nov. 28, Beef Products Inc. attorneys requested that a federal judge return its $1 billion defamation lawsuit filed against ABC News to state court in South Dakota, according to the Sioux City Journal.com. They also filed a motion opposing ABC's request to drop the case.

BPI accused ABC, in its suit filed Sept. 27 in Union County Circuit Court, of making 200 defamatory statements about its lean finely textured beef (LFTB), which resulted in consumers wrongly believing its product was unsafe and unhealthy.

In October, lawyers for ABC and seven defendants moved to transfer the 257-page civil suit to US District Court in Sioux Falls. Next, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming they did not knowingly disparage BPI or LFTB.

Then in a Nov. 28 motion, BPI attorneys rebutted ABC's request the case should be heard in federal court because there is not "complete diversity of citizenship between the plaintiffs and defendants." Defendants American Broadcasting Co. and ABC News and two related BPI companies, BPI Technology Inc. and Freezing Machines Inc., all are Delaware corporations. ABC said BPI and Freezing Machines are not "real parties in interest" so they have no right to assert the claims.

In court documents filed Nov. 28, BPI lawyers disputed ABC’s assertion, stating all three plaintiffs produce LFTB. Freezing Machines developed all of the machinery used to produce the product, while BPI Technology supervises almost its entire production.

Over the next five years, the defendants' actions will reportedly cost BPI more than $400 million in profits, the processor estimates. Because it filed its civil suit in South Dakota, which has food-product disparagement laws, BPI could ask a jury for treble damages (a statute that permits a court to triple the amount of the actual/compensatory damages to be awarded to a prevailing plaintiff.)

ABC’s lawyers argue BPI can’t claim harm under this SD law because it only deals with product safety; they further argue neither ABC nor its journalists called the product unsafe.

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