Ending an anticipated eight-week-long trial early, Beef Products Inc. (BPI) announced June 28 that it has received an undisclosed settlement amount from American Broadcasting Companies Inc. (ABC) regarding its libel case that alleged that ABC damaged BPI by referring to its signature product -- lean, finely textured beef (LFTB) -- as "pink slime" in a network news series.
The South Dakota meat producer filed a more than $1 billion lawsuit -- which, under South Dakota law, could have ballooned to as much as $5.7 billion -- against the network after the series, which ran in March 2012, resulted in BPI suspending operations at three manufacturing facilities in Amarillo, Texas; Garden City, Kan., and Waterloo, Iowa, and laying off more than 650 employees. By the end of the month-long ABC campaign, BPI claimed that its sales had been reduced by more than two-thirds. By May of the same year, BPI announced that the plant closures would be permanent and laid off an additional 86 employees from the corporate offices and remaining operation.
In September 2012, BPI filed a civil suit against ABC in circuit court in Union County, S.D., claiming that ABC knowingly disparaged BPI and LFTB in a series of reports with factually inaccurate statements that damaged BPI's reputation and destroyed its relationships with customers. After several attempts by ABC to have the case dismissed or moved, the trial began earlier in June.
A statement issued by BPI and the Roth family regarding the settlement of their libel and defamation case against ABC and reporter Jim Avila noted, “We are extraordinarily pleased to have reached a settlement of our lawsuit against ABC and Jim Avila. While this has not been an easy road to travel, it was necessary to begin rectifying the harm we suffered as a result of what we believed to be biased and baseless reporting in 2012. Through this process, we have again established what we all know to be true about lean finely textured beef: It is beef and is safe, wholesome and nutritious.
“This agreement provides us with a strong foundation on which to grow the business while allowing us to remain focused on achieving the vision of the Roth and BPI family,” the statement concluded.
ABC said in a statement it had reached an “amicable resolution” of the dispute.
“Throughout this case, we have maintained that our reports accurately presented the facts and views of knowledgeable people about this product,” ABC’s statement said. “Although we have concluded that continued litigation of this case is not in the company’s interests, we remain committed to the vigorous pursuit of truth and the consumer's right to know about the products they purchase.”
For more in-depth coverage of the trial, see the upcoming July 5 print edition of Feedstuffs.