Published: Thu, August 10, 2017
Economy | By Annette Adams

BPI attorney: Settlement with ABC exceeds $177M

BPI attorney: Settlement with ABC exceeds $177M

BPI filed a $1.9 billion defamation lawsuit against the television network in 2012, alleging that ABC News reporter Jim Avila's coverage of its use of a product known as "lean finely-textured beef" led customers to believe it was unsafe to consume. "Based on Disney's disclosure, it appears that Disney is funding $177 million of the settlement and its insurers are paying the rest".

Both BPI and Disney declined in June to reveal the settlement's financial terms because they are confidential.

As a result of the broadcasts, BPI said its sales fell by about 80%, it was forced to close three of four processing plants and lay off about 700 employees, and will have sustained about $400 million in lost sales. Through this process, we have again established what we all know to be true about Lean Finely Textured Beef: it is beef, and is safe, wholesome, and nutritious.

Because a food libel law in South Dakota, where BPI is headquartered, calls for triple damages to be paid by those found guilty of misleading consumers about the safety of food products, ABC News faced the possibility of a roughly $6 billion payment.

Disney's (dis) decision to settle the lawsuit, first reported by the Hollywood Reporter, came as a surprise, and occurred in the midst of a weeks-long trial in South Dakota.

The June 28 agreement ended a jury trial on day 17 in Union County, SD, Circuit Court. The on-air reports led by ABC correspondent Jim Avila noted that some critics had referred to the product as "pink slime", and that BPI did not label the ingredient when it was included in its beef. Dan Webb, an attorney for BPI, said at the time he was "extraordinarily pleased" with the settlement, although the terms were unknown. According to CNN Money, at least some of that was tied to the pink slime lawsuit, though it's not clear how much.

After the reports aired, some grocery store chains said they would stop carrying ground beef that contained the product.

Former Department of Agriculture microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein named the product "pink slime" in a 2002 agency email.

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