Food Lion roaring

Market asks court to restore award against ABC

NEW YORK — In the latest development in the 6-year-old Food Lion vs. ABC court case, supermarket chain Food Lion has asked a federal appeals court to reinstate a $5.5 million damage award against the Disney-owned broadcast network.

The case began in 1992 when Food Lion sued ABC over a “PrimeTime Live” report that relied on information obtained by two ABC producers who worked undercover as Food Lion employees. The ABC story, which used footage from hidden cameras, alleged that Food Lion sold spoiled repackaged meat and pressured employees to work overtime without extra pay.

The Salisbury, N.C.-based Food Lion sued ABC for, among other things, fraud and trespass and was originally awarded damages of $5.5 million. A Greensboro, N.C., federal judge subsequently reduced the jury award to $315,000.

Despite the reduction of damages, ABC appealed the jury’s verdict. Food Lion’s request for the original $5.5 million came Thursday during oral arguments in ABC’s appeal. The case is being heard by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

Lawyers for Food Lion told the panel that the Greensboro federal judged erred in reducing the jury award to $315,000.

The case is being watched closely as a test of the media’s use of hidden cameras in investigative reporting and the use of common law claims by companies seeking to bypass the difficult legal challenge of proving libel.

(Reuters contributed to this story.)