A South Dakota judge heard oral arguments on the ABC News motion to dismiss the defamation suit brought by Beef Products Inc. BPI is suing ABC News over statements made in March 2012 reports about lean finely textured beef. According to the company – repeated references to the meat as pink slime by ABC misled consumers into believing LFTB was unhealthy and unsafe. ABC has moved to have the suit dismissed – claiming that there is no legally justifiable case against them. It’s up to Judge Cheryle Gering to decide whether all or part of the case will progress to the evidence gathering phase. AgriPulse reports that First Amendment Center President Ken Paulson says defamation cases against news outlets are very difficult to win. He says BPI will have to demonstrate ABC knew the information it reported was false and reported it anyway to prevail at trial.
According to BPI’s complaint – since ABC aired its stories – weekly sales of LFTB dropped from five-million dollars to under two-million dollars. The company has lost 400-million dollars in profits, closed three plants and terminated 700 employees. Because of a food disparagement law in South Dakota – which allows for tripled damages – BPI is seeking 1.2-billion dollars. That makes this one of the biggest defamation cases in U.S. history. Eldon Roth – BPI founder – says the case is critical to the future of the company.