A trial in which a meat processor has claimed that a report that appeared on ABC News defamed it by calling one of its meat products ‘pink slime’ has started in the state of South Dakota. Beef Products Inc has presented the argument that ABC News and reporter Jim Avila caused harm to the brand five years ago following the 2012 report which allegedly contained errors and omissions.
After the report was broadcast by ABC, BPI ended up shuttering three processing plants out of the four it owned. Revenues for the meat processor also fell by 80% to $130 million.
“That success took about 30 years to succeed and it took ABC less than 30 days to severely damage the company,” Dan Webb, a lawyer representing BPI, remarked in court as the trial got underway.
Dane Butswinkas, a lawyer for ABC countered that the ‘pink slime’ term was commonly used and prior to the ABC report had been mentioned in the media over 3,800 times. ABC’s lawyer also added that before the report BPI had lost multiple customers such as fast food chains due to dissatisfaction with the meat processor’s products. The Walt Disney unit also insisted that its reporting was accurate and needed protection from the First Amendment of the U.S. constitutions which guarantees a free press.
The trial is taking place in South Dakota’s Elk Point, just 32 kilometers from the headquarters of BPI. Statistics from the local branch of the chamber of commerce indicates that about 6% of the labor force in the area is working in the agricultural sector and other related industries. At the moment about 110 people are employed at the BPI headquarters.
In Union County where BPI has its headquarters about 67% of the voters supported Trump who has regularly used the ‘fake news’ term to deride the mainstream media. BPI lawyers, however, declined to admit whether they planned to use a similar tactic.
In order for BPI to stand high chances of winning the case, it needs to demonstrate that ABC deliberately set out to cause harm to the brand reputation or that the media organization was aware that the ‘pink slime’ report it aired was false.
The trial is set to change the way of life at Elk Point to some extent. Being a small town with a population of 2,000, the county commission has had to earmark funds to enlarge the courtroom so that it can accommodate overflow crowds.