ABC News and their parent company Disney paid $177 Million to settle a defamation lawsuit with Beef Products Inc,. according to a CNN report. Disney agreed to the settlement in June as the trial entered into its third week.
BPI sued ABC News for close to $2 billion after correspondent Jim Avila reported in May 2012 that the beef company was mixing leaned, textured beef product into their meat. Avila referred to the by-product as "pink slime," and suggested that BPI was adding it without informing customers on the labels. Though several journalists who picked up the story on other outlets acknowledged that the beef additive was not harmful to customers, BPI alleged that the "pink slime" label negatively affected their business.
The report caused many grocery store franchises to remove BPI meat products from their shelves. That along with the consumer petitions condemning the "pink slime" caused the meat company to lose 80% of its sales, forcing the closure of three plants and the termination of over 700 employees.
The trial took place in Elk Point, South Dakota, giving the home advantage to BPI.
Attorney for the plaintiff Dan Webb condemned ABC News in his opening statement at the trial, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Webb told jurors, “"It took 30 years to succeed and it took ABC less than 30 days to severely damage the company.” He continued, "They ignored the proper name. When you have a major news organization that is calling the product 'slime,' witnesses will say they can't imagine anything worse. It connotes something disgusting, inedible." He emphasized, "It physically doesn't look like slime.”
ABC News stood by their reporting. They released this statement in reaction to the settlement.
Although we have concluded that continued litigation of this case is not in the company's interests, we remain committed to the vigorous pursuit of truth and the consumer's right to know about the products they purchase.
Though the settlement was confidential, Business Insider writes that the initial figure was discovered following the Wednesday release of Walt Disney Co's quarterly earnings report. This has led some to speculate that the $177 million figure may be a drop in the bucket of the actual payout to BPI.
The settlement ranks as one of the highest amounts paid by a media corporation over a defamation suit.
Webb told CNN, "Based on all the research we've done, that alone would make it the largest.” He added, “As I said at the time, we got an extraordinarily favorable settlement."