GREENSBORO, N.C. (Reuters) – A federal jury on Monday awarded $1,402 in compensatory damages to Food Lion Inc. in finding that ABC television reporters committed fraud in preparing an undercover report about alleged unsanitary food practices at the grocery chain.
The jury deliberated for one hour before awarding Food Lion $1,400 on the fraud allegation, $1 for trespassing and $1 for breach of loyalty. The company had claimed damages of $2,432.35 in this phase of the proceeding.
$1.7 bil sought
Food Lion sued ABC and four producers, seeking $1.7 billion in damages to recoup losses it says it suffered as a result of an expose the network aired in 1992 about the food retailer on its “PrimeTime Live” news magazine show.
The jury, which will hear evidence concerning punitive damages later this week, ruled Dec. 20 that journalists employed by ABCcommitted trespassing and fraud in preparing the undercover report about Food Lion.
The panel said that two field producers and two executive producers of ABC committed the offenses while preparing a report about Food Lion for broadcast Nov. 5, 1992.
Food Lion, a unit of a Belgian retailer, claimed it lost $1.5 billion in stock value at the time of the broadcast and $233 million in profits after the broadcast. But in a ruling issued moments after the Dec. 20 jury verdict, U.S. District Judge N. Carlton Tilley said Food Lion could not seek damages for lost sales or diminished stock value from the broadcast.
He said the company would be limited to seeking damages in the form of wages paid to the ABC employees, the cost of hiring replacements and punitive damages.