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'Pink Slime' Defamation Suit Against ABC Going to Trial

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on March 31, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If the news of lean finely textured beef ("LFTB"), a/k/a "pink slime," being sold and used as food brought to mind images like this, then you are not alone. Well, Beef Products, Inc. is not having it. They stand behind their beef, and in 2012 they sued ABC, and the scientist who dubbed LFTB "pink slime," asking for $1.2 billion in damages resulting from plant closures and layoffs, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

Procedural History

The 27-count, 257-page complaint included the following claims: defamation for false statements, defamation for false implications, common law product disparagement for false statements, common law product disparagement for false implications, statutory product disparagement for false implications under South Dakota law, and tortious interference with business relationships.

Just over a month after the complaint was filed, the defendants filed a Notice of Removal, seeking removal of the case to federal court in the District Court for the District of South Dakota. However, in June 2013, Judge Schreir granted the plaintiffs' motion to remand back to state court.

Motion to Dismiss

Back in state court, the defendants moved to dismiss all of the claims, but because of the early state of litigation, the court denied their motion to the majority of their claims with the exception of some counts of common law disparagement claims because of the existence of "a comprehensive statutory product disparagement scheme" under South Dakota law. While not a decision on the merits, this ruling means that the parties can move forward, and the court gave the defendants a new deadline to submit their answers.

What Will Happen?

While most civil cases settle, there are some important issues here and, though limited to South Dakota law, there's no doubt that many media outlets are keeping an eye on how this case will turn out. Will ABC settle? It could -- but that may establish a very dangerous precedent. Any business that is scrutinized in the media would then have an incentive to start a cause of action because they think the news agency will just settle. We're not sure how far this case will get, but we'll definitely be watching -- and keeping you updated.

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