ABC's news anchor Diane Sawyer, two of the network's correspondents, and other defendants in a $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit against the company related to its coverage of a meat product known by critics as "pink slime" could be deposed following a ruling by the South Dakota Supreme Court. The state's high court yesterday denied a petition by the network and other defendants to review the case and largely dismiss it. The court also lifted a stay issued in April that had prevented the lawsuit's discovery process, including depositions, to begin. The court did not express an opinion as to the merits of the appeal.
Beef Products Inc. sued the television network in 2012 seeking $1.2 billion in damages for the coverage of the meat product—the real name of which is "lean, finely textured beef." Dakota Dunes-based BPI said ABC's coverage led to the closure of three plants and roughly 700 layoffs by misleading consumers into believing the product is unsafe. Attorneys for ABC in court have said the network in each of its broadcasts stated the USDA deemed the product safe to eat. They said BPI might not like the phrase "pink slime," but like all ground beef, it's pink and has a slimy texture. A South Dakota judge in March refused to throw out the lawsuit, leading ABC to file a petition with the Supreme Court. (Read more Beef Products stories.)