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ABC Files for Dismissal of LFTB Suit by BPI Inc

08:51AM Nov 01, 2012

Via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

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Says suit brought by firm impinges on free speech.

ABC News has filed a motion in federal court to seek a dismissal of the defamation lawsuit brought by Beef Products Inc. (BPI) over the news organization's reports on lean finely textured beef (LFTB).

The BPI suit seeks to inhibit free speech, ABC said in court papers, as it challenges the right of news organizations to "explore matters of obvious public interest - what is in the food we eat and how that food is labeled." Further, ABC defended the term "pink slime" that it used in the reports aired, calling it the "exactly the sort of 'loose, figurative, or hyperbolic language' that courts recognize demands protection under the First Amendment," according to the court filing.

BPI filed suit to seek $400 million in damages for lost profits it charges were due to the ABC News reports along with punitive damages.

A lawyer for BPI told Reuters in an email they would fight the dismissal motion as they believe the complaint filed on behalf of BPI "sets forth valid claims."

BPI closed three of its four plants, affecting hundreds of workers in the wake of the ABC News reports as demand for the product has dropped dramatically. USDA, which maintained the product is safe, decided to let school districts opt out of purchasing LFTB for use in the school lunch program.

It's not clear when a ruling on the dismissal suit filed in federal court in South Dakota will be made.