NOBULL: BPI’s defamation suit against ABC News will proceed

BPI’s defamation suit against ABC News will proceed

By Lisa M. Keefe on 3/28/2014

A South Dakota state court judge ruled on Thursday to allow most of Beef Products Inc.’s $1.2 billion defamation case against ABC News and others to proceed, rejecting the network’s arguments for dismissal.

Judge Cheryle Gering of the Union County Circuit Court did not rule on whether defamation occurred, only that in 22 of the 27 claims, including alleged product disparagement and interference with business relationships, BPI could continue to pursue its case against the network, and on-air personalities Jim Avila and Diane Sawyer, according court documents.

"The entirety of the broadcasts can be reasonably interpreted as insinuating that plaintiffs are improperly selling a product that is not nutritious and/or not safe for the public’s consumption," the judge wrote in her ruling.

Gering also said the contexts in which ABC made certain of its statements justified allowing BPI company to continue its case.

With regards to the use of the term "pink slime," the judge wrote that the phrase could be "reasonably interpreted" as implying that a food product is not fit to eat.

A network spokesman reportedly said in a statement that "We will defend our reporting vigorously on the merits."

BPI attorney Erik Connolly said in an emailed statement that, "We are pleased with the Court’s decision, which rejected nearly all of the Defendants’ arguments. We look forward to starting discovery and ultimately presenting our case to a jury."