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Supreme Court in SD Denies ABC News Appeal in Beef Defamation Suit
USAgNet - 04/10/2017

The South Dakota Supreme Court has denied ABC News' request to reverse a lower court's ruling that paved the way for Beef Product Inc.'s $1.9 billion defamation lawsuit against the network to go to trial later this year.

According to the Sioux City Journal, the television network had appealed Circuit Judge Cheryle Gering's order in which she said a jury might find that ABC implied the product was not safe and that the network acted with malice in its reports. ABC contended that in her February ruling, Gering misapplied South Dakota Supreme Court precedents pertaining to actual malice and South Dakota's Agricultural Food Products Disparagement Act.

In a one-page order filed Monday, Chief Justice David Gilbertson denied ABC's petition for appeal. The order gave no opinion on the appeal's merits.

The trial is scheduled to begin June 5 in Union County Circuit Court and could last up to eight weeks.

BPI, based in Dakota Dunes, SD, sued ABC, its correspondents, federal officials and a former employee in September 2012 and will attempt to prove that a series of stories and broadcasts that began in early March 2012 defamed the company's Lean Finely Textured Beef. BPI alleges the "prolonged disinformation campaign" caused a backlash against the product, which critics repeatedly referred to as "pink slime," and led to a loss of $400 million in business, forcing the family-owned business to close all but its South Sioux City plant and lay off more than 700 workers.

In her February ruling, Gering dismissed former "World News Tonight" anchor Diane Sawyer from the case, saying that Sawyer's role as an anchor limited her involvement in doing research and was not enough to establish defamation. The ruling left American Broadcasting Companies Inc., the parent of ABC News, and correspondent Jim Avila as defendants. ABC, Sawyer and Avila had sought the suit's dismissal in October.

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