A South Dakota judge this week refused to dismiss a defamation lawsuit against ABC News for its coverage of a product called lean, finely textured beef, dubbed "pink slime" by critics.
Beef Products Inc. (BPI) sued the TV network in 2012, seeking $1.2 billion in damages. Dakota Dunes-based BPI contends that ABC's coverage misled consumers into believing the product is unsafe, which it says contributed to the subsequent closure of three plants and roughly 700 layoffs.
In her March 27 ruling, Judge Cheryle Gering dismissed certain claims but allowed most to go forward. Gering ruled that ABC isn't protected against liability by saying in its news reports that the product is beef, is safe and is nutritious.
Jeffrey W. Schneider, senior vice president of ABC News, said in a statement that the ruling was on a preliminary motion to dismiss, not on the merits of the case. "We will defend our reporting vigorously on the merits," he said.
In a statement, BPI attorney Erik Connolly said the company is pleased with the ruling, adding: "We look forward to starting discovery and ultimately presenting our case to a jury."