A potential $5.7 billion lawsuit against ABC News is headed to trial after a judge ruled that the defamation suit filed by Beef Products Inc. should be heard by a jury, Reuters reports.
BPI is claiming it was damaged by a series of reports airing back in 2012 about a meat product from BPI that was referred to as “pink slime.”
In a win for ABC, anchor Diane Sawyer was released from the suit. But Judge Cheryle Gering of the Union County Circuit Court in Elk Point, S.D., ordered ABC and reporter Jim Avila to remain as defendants.
In a hearing last month, Gering said: “A jury could determine that there is clear and convincing evidence that ABC Broadcasting and Mr. Avila were reckless, that defendants had obvious reason to doubt the veracity of informants, and that they engaged in purposeful avoidance of the truth.”
The report notes that Gering did not rule on the case’s merits.
ABC said in a statement: “We are pleased that the court dismissed all claims against Diane Sawyer. We welcome the opportunity to defend the ABC News reports at trial and are confident that we will ultimately prevail.”
J. Erik Connolly, an attorney for BPI said his client will prove ABC “engaged in a disinformation campaign against a company that produces safe and nutritious beef, leading to billions of dollars in damages and hundreds of lost jobs.”
The trial is set for June 5.