A trial to determine if ABC News defamed a beef product began on Monday in South Dakota.
Beef Products Inc. has filed a $1.9 billion claim against the broadcaster, alleging that a 2012 report on “pink slime” caused a precipitous drop in sales. Under South Dakota’s Agricultural Food Product Disparagement Act, that amount could be tripled to $5.7 billion. Attorneys for both sides gave their opening arguments at the outset of what promises to be an eight-week trial.
Dan Webb, an attorney for BPI, told jurors that the company’s product — which it calls Lean Finely Textured Beef — was in most of the country’s ground beef before ABC News aired its reports in the spring of 2012. After that, sales dropped by 75 percent.
Webb told jurors that the network nearly put BPI out of business.
“That success took about 30 years to succeed and it took ABC less than 30 days to severely damage the company,” Webb said, according to Reuters.
When it was his turn, ABC’s attorney Dane Butswinkas argued that the term “pink slime” had been around for years. The New York Times won a Pulitzer for a story on the same subject a few years earlier.
“ABC did not report facts that hadn’t been reported before,” he said, according to the Sioux City Journal.
According to the paper, more than 100 people packed into the courtroom in Elk Point, South Dakota, including media, lawyers and onlookers.