A manufacturer of beef trimmings launched a $1.2 billion defamation suit against the American Broadcasting Company, ABC reporters Jim Avila and David Kerly, Diane Sawyer and several others in the Circuit Court of South Dakota, First Judicial Circuit on September 13, 2012.
In its complaint, the manufacturer, Beef Products, Inc., alleges that ABC’s multi-part documentary attacked BPI’s lean finely textured beef product (the substance less affectionately dubbed “pink slime” by critics in the documentary) causing it to incur a loss of business since the series aired. The complaint notes that several high profile customers (including McDonald’s Corp. and grocery chains such as Kroger Co.) stopped purchasing LFTB after the negative media attention brought about by the series, causing BPI to incur monthly sales losses in excess of $20 million.
BPI further alleges that ABC’s culpable conduct includes over 200 false and disparaging statements about BPI and LFTB, wrongfully accusing BPI of not receiving proper inspections and approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for LFTB, and publishing of a “blacklist” of retailers that sold meat products with LFTB “causing the grocery chains on the list to drop the products.” Importantly, it asserts that ABC made these claims despite the fact that BPI provided the network with information – before, during, and after the documentary and that the claims against BPI were simply incorrect.
ABC vehemently denied any wrongdoing, with ABC New Senior Vice President Jeffrey Schneider stating “The lawsuit is without merit . . . We will contest it vigorously.”