Food Libel Update: Pink Slime Case Could Make Waves

pink slime food libel lawsuit
An old fashioned on-air food libel lawsuit is haunting the halls of ABC. “Pink Slime” is to blame.

The so-called “Pink Slime” defamation lawsuit between ABC and Beef Products Inc. (BPI) is going to last an eternity, y’all. Both sides have lots to gain (and lose) – and both sides have tons of money for food libel litigation purposes. The latest? A North Dakota judge rejected ABC’s motion to dismiss the case and gave BPI the green light to move forward with their trade libel/food libel lawsuit.

The Pink Slime Defamation Lawsuit (So Far) In 20 Seconds

Impolitic Meat Quip Led To Grocery Store Backlash, Hurting Bottom Line…

Back in 2013, Diane Sawyer headlined a television investigative piece about a new meat product called “lean, finely textured beef.” Unflatteringly, Sawyer went with “pink slime” when describing the product.

So A Meat Company Sued For Food Libel…

Needless to say, the “lean, finely textured beef” people were none too pleased with the “pink slime” quip. Grocery stores, undoubtedly under pressure from GOOP-loving gals and guys, removed the meat from shelves. Profits suffered, and within short order, the beef industry labeled the “expose” a “disinformation campaign” and Beef Products Inc. (BPI)sued the American Broadcasting Company and Diane Sawyer for defamation and tortious interference.

And Both Sides Are Arguing Every Motion Available To Argue…

At first, the two sides jockeyed over jurisdiction. And most recently, ABC argued for dismissal on the grounds that defamation did not occur, because no false statement of fact was made.

But The Judge Says The Case Must Move Forward!

The judge, however, ruled the case should move forward. She reasoned that while the defense could successfully argue “public concern” and win the case, since the plaintiffs say they can prove purposeful disparagement, they should be permitted their “day in court.” Moreover, Judge Gering said that the defense failed to prove that their statements were just hyperbolic opinions, so the case would continue.

In the words of the Court:

“In this case, the court believes that the allegedly tortious statements made by the Defendants give a person a mental picture of the product which [sic] is being described, i.e. provide an actual description of the product and are not merely an ‘unrealistic exaggeration.’ Furthermore, it cannot be said that the alleged defamatory statements made by the Defendants were merely hyperbolic statements or epithets.”

The Judge continued:

“Simply put, none of the cases cited in the Defendants’ brief stands for the proposition that news organizations are immune from suit for tortious interference with a business relationship under the First Amendment. The ABC News Defendants’ status as news reporters and news organizations does not give them immunity from such a claim.”

Why You Should Keep An Eye On This Food Libel Lawsuit (If You Care About Defamation Law, That Is.)

This is a defamation case to keep an eye on because it presents many interesting questions for a jury and judge to consider. Will food libel laws make a difference in this defamation suit? And if they do, will it trigger a change of statute heart amongst lawmakers if said food libel laws prove to severely hinder free speech? And if they are argued, will food libel protections trump “public concern” in this instance? It’s been some time since a major network station got caught in a very public defamation row.

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Get In Touch With A Food Libel Lawyer

Oh, and if you’re in need of a slander or libel lawyer, get in touch today. We’re here and ready to answer all your defamation and food libel law questions.

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