A South Dakota judge refused to throw out a $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit against ABC News filed by Beef Products Inc. over the network’s coverage of BPI’s lean finely textured beef, which was also dubbed “pink slime.” BPI filed the lawsuit in 2012 after a backlash against the product led the company to close three of its four processing plants and lay off about 700 workers, reports the Associated Press.

Attorneys for ABC say the network in each of its broadcasts stated the U.S. Food and Drug Administration deemed the product safe to eat. They say BPI might not like the phrase "pink slime," but like all ground beef, it's pink and has a slimy texture.

In her Thursday ruling, Judge Cheryle Gering dismissed some 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, noted 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," Schneider said in a written statement.

Beef Products Inc. attorney Erik Connolly said the company is pleased with the ruling.

"We look forward to starting discovery and ultimately presenting our case to a jury," Connolly said in a statement.

Source: AP via Minneapolis Star-Tribune