BPI claims settlement with ABC 'vindicates' Dunes firm's beef product
ELK POINT, S.D. | As the Union County courtroom began to fill Wednesday morning, one could sense an atmosphere different from the one present in the room during the previous 17 days of trial in Beef Products Inc.'s $1.9 billion defamation lawsuit against ABC.
BPI's lawyers, usually serious and businesslike in the minutes before a session began, joked and laughed with one another.
BPI owners Eldon and Regina Roth were present as they had been through much of the trial, but were accompanied by several other family members. A contingent from the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce filled several seats in the room.The scene begged the question: Was something up?
That question was answered seconds after Circuit Judge Cheryle Gering entered the courtroom and sat down, addressing the 16 jurors who had sat through hours of testimony from BPI witnesses called to support the company's claim that ABC news reports that had repeatedly used the term "pink slime" to describe BPI's Lean Finely Textured Beef product had caused millions of dollars in damages to the Dakota Dunes-based meat processor.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have many things to tell you this morning," Gering said. "First of all, the case is settled. Neither the court, nor the jury, nor the public will be told the terms of the settlement today.
"The case is over."
Just like that, a trial expected to last eight weeks was settled midway through the fourth week.
BPI sued ABC, correspondent Jim Avila, who reported many of the stories, and several others who were later dismissed from the suit in September 2012, claiming that ABC knowingly used false information about LFTB during a series of reports in March and April 2012. Those reports regularly referred to the product as "pink slime," an unflattering moniker BPI said led consumers to believe the product was unsafe and low in nutritional value.
BPI, a privately held, family business once considered the world's largest producer of boneless beef, had sought $1.9 billion, a claim that could have been tripled to $5.7 billion under provisions of South Dakota's Agricultural Food Product Disparagement Act, a law designed to protect agricultural interests.
Terms of the settlement are confidential, but judging from the celebratory mood of BPI officials and their lawyers, it was apparent that the agreement was favorable to the company.
HT: How Appealing"We are extraordinarily pleased with this settlement," BPI attorney Dan Webb said outside the Union County Courthouse. "I believe we have totally vindicated the product."Webb, a prominent trial attorney based in Chicago, took no questions from the media....MUCH MORE