A judge has ordered ABC Broadcasting to face a potential $5.7 billion defamation lawsuit brought on by Beef Products Inc. BPI claimed that ABC news damaged the company by its series of reports on “pink slime” in 2012.
According to Reuters, claims against new anchor Diane Sawyer were dismissed. However, Judge Charyle Gehring of the Union County Circuit Court in Elk Point, S.D., said that ABC and reporter Jim Avila must defend against BPI’s claims.
"A jury could determine that there is clear and convincing evidence that ABC Broadcasting and Mr. Avila were reckless, that defendants had obvious reason to doubt the veracity of informants, and that they engaged in purposeful avoidance of the truth," Gering said during a hearing last month.
The claims against Sawyer were dismissed because of her position as a news anchor was not sufficient to establish defamation.
"We are pleased that the court dismissed all claims against Diane Sawyer," ABC said in a statement. "We welcome the opportunity to defend the ABC News reports at trial and are confident that we will ultimately prevail."
BPI's lawyer, J. Erik Connolly, said his client looks forward to proving how ABC "engaged in a disinformation campaign against a company that produces safe and nutritious beef, leading to billions of dollars in damages and hundreds of lost jobs."
BPI has claimed up to $1.9 billion of damages, which could be tripled to $5.7 billion under South Dakota's Agricultural Food Products Disparagement Act.