BPI defamation case heads to jury trial
April 6, 2017
by Erica Shaffer
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South Dakota's higher court rejects appeal of ruling allowing the company to take its lawsuit to a jury.
UNION, SD – A jury in South Dakota will hear arguments in the “pink slime” product defamation case launched by Beef Products Inc. against ABC Broadcasting Cos. The trial date is scheduled for June 5.
A state Supreme Court justice in South Dakota denied an appeal by ABC of a lower-court ruling that rejected the broadcaster’s request for summary judgment.
The lawsuit stems from ABC News coverage of lean finely textured beef (LFTB). Attorneys for BPI claim that ABC News defamed the company’s LFTB product in news reports and social media posts. The lawsuit also alleges that the network’s coverage of LFTB, labeled “pink slime” by critics, misled consumers to believe the product is unsafe. LFTB is lean meat that has been defatted from beef and trimmings and turned into lean ground beef. The US Dept. of Agriculture has said LFTB is safe for consumers to eat.
“The trial court’s decision denying ABC’s motion for summary judgment was correct and we are glad the South Dakota Supreme Court rejected ABC’s request for an appeal of that decision,” BPI said in a statement. “We look forward to presenting our case to the jury and holding the defendants accountable for their actions.”
BPI is seeking more than $1 billion in damages for defamation, product and food disparagement and tortious interference with business relationships. The company is seeking more than $1 billion in damages, but that amount could increase to more than $5 billion under South Dakota’s Agriculture Food Products Disparagement Act.
Defendants who were dismissed from the lawsuit include Diane Sawyer, ABC News, Gerald Zirnstein and Carl Custer, former US Dept. of Agriculture employees; ABC News correspondent David Kerley and Kit Foshee, a former BPI employee. ABC, which is owned by The Walt Disney Co. and reporter Jim Avila, must defend against the claims.
The case is Beef Products Inc et al v. American Broadcasting Cos et al, First Judicial Circuit Court of South Dakota, Union County, No. 12-292.