The Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog

ABC Jabs Back in 'Pink Slime' Libel Lawsuit

Anyone remember that “pink slime” nonsense that happened earlier this year? ABC reported on some gross-looking beef (though if it was strawberry soft-serve, we’d be down) and then every other outlet picked up the story. Eventually, companies fled from the supplier en masse and the supplier filed for bankruptcy.

The meat product was perfectly legal and posed no health risks by the way.

Last month, Beef Products, Inc. sued ABC for defamation on the theory that coining their product “pink slime” misled consumers into believing that the product was unhealthy and unsafe. ABC’s month-long coverage, which included 11 broadcasts, 14 online reports, and social media coverage, allegedly led to BPI losing over 80 percent of its business.

Pink Slime
‘Pink slime’, or strawberry soft-serve? Mmmmm …. tasty!

ABC is fighting back, however. They filed a motion to dismiss the $1.2 billion case, arguing that BPIs claims fail under the applicable state and federal laws, reports the Courthouse News Service. In addition, ABC is arguing that the descriptor “pink slime” is a perfectly accurate and imaginative way of describing the lovely Pepto-Bismol tinted substance.

A commonly raised defense to defamation claims is the First Amendment’s right to free speech. Even if a person’s speech damages another party, that doesn’t ensure a victory. Certain types of speech are protected, such as “rhetorical hyperbole” and “imaginative expression.”

The key consideration is whether or not the reasonable person would take ABC’s comments as opinion, or as fact, and whether that person would take the moniker as indicative of safety issues with the meat. A victory on a defamation claim that is based on an opinion is nearly impossible.

ABC also noted in their motion to dismiss that they repeatedly stated in their broadcasts that the pink product is “safe to eat, though not as nutritious as ground beef.”

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