Many lawyers and journalism experts agree that the lawsuit filed by Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) against ABC News, may be difficult to win.
The AP: “A jury may have a very difficult time finding the news stories involved here were defamatory, or that there was any intent to harm the company.” - Neil Hamilton, Drake University professor/Dir. of the Agricultural Law Center in Des Moines.
The Washington Post: “I would say they have a very high burden of proving that ABC knew what they said was false at the time they said it,” said Laura Handman, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine in Washington.
Ad Age: “…there’s a strong First Amendment, public policy [reason], for courts to throw these cases out of court right out of the gate.” – Randall Miller, a partner with Arnold & Porter law firm in Virginia.
In fact, when Food Lion sued ABC in the 1990s — at first successfully, until it was overturned by the Court of Appeals — the grocery chain sued for tort, as a way to get around strict First Amendment standards for defamation. In that case, two Primetime Live staffers posed as Food Lion employees and videotaped — with cameras hidden in wigs — unsanitary practices. A jury originally awarded Food Lion $5.5 million dollars. BPI is seeking $1.2 billion in damages.