Mar 15, 2017

$1.9B "pink slime" suit against ABC News cleared for trial

A $1.9 billion defamation lawsuit against ABC News for referring to a South Dakota company's meat product as "pink slime" is going to trial after a South Dakota judge ruled that ABC journalists "were reckless" in their reporting and that "they engaged in purposeful avoidance of the truth."

The judge dismissed a five-year-old defamation suit against Diane Sawyer but left open cases against several other journalists, include Emmy-winning reporter Jim Avila. The "pink slime" controversy gained national attention for crippling the beef company, and affecting employment. The network has repeatedly defended its reporting, calling the suit meritless.

Why it matters: The case is another First Amendment test for the media, and will further define the scope of food libel laws across the country. The South Dakota food libel law that this suit is based on triples the amount of reported damages if a news organization knowingly lied about food safety claims, meaning ABC could be looking at up to $5.7 billion in charges.

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