Entries in Defamation (2)


BPI Announces Defamation Lawsuit Over 'Pink Slime'

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The company that makes what it calls lean finely textured beef, the food product that critics call "pink slime," has announced a defamation suit against ABC News after reports on the product by ABC and others led to reduced demand.

Media organizations have frequently reported on the product that often was added to ground beef sold in supermarkets and served in restaurants and schools.

"The lawsuit is without merit," said Jeffrey Schneider, Senior Vice President of ABC News, which ran several such reports.  "We will contest it vigorously."

Beef Products Inc., BPI Technology Inc. and Freezing Machines Inc., collectively known as BPI, first publicly indicated on Wednesday its intention to share details of "a major lawsuit regarding defamation of its beef product, lean finely textured beef" on Thursday.

The product, abbreviated as LFTB, is made of beef trimmings that are heated and spritzed with ammonia gas to kill bacteria.  Blending in the product can reduce the price of ground beef.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that the product is safe to eat and reduces the overall fat content of beef products.

In late March, governors from three meat-producing states walked through a BPI plant with reporters and defended LFTB.

"It's beef, but it's leaner beef which is better for you," Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said.  "We take this off the market then we end up with a fatter product that's going to cost more and is going to increase the obesity problem in this country."

Then USDA scientist Gerald Zirnstein first coined the term "pink slime" to describe what the industry calls LFTB in an email he sent to USDA colleagues in 2002.  He and former USDA colleague Carl Custer continue to be outspoken critics of LFTB.

After a flurry of news reports earlier this year, several national grocery chains publicly vowed to discontinue selling beef containing the product, joining some other supermarket chains that claimed they never did.

Restaurants, including McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell, had earlier stopped buying it.

In early April, the USDA approved requests by BPI and others that they be allowed to label products containing LFTB.  Given the choice by the USDA, many school districts refused to accept beef with the "pink slime."  Only three states participating in the National School Lunch Program -- Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, all states with BPI facilities -- agreed to order ground beef that might contain the product, according to a June 6 ABC News report.

With demand apparently falling, BPI announced in late March it would temporarily suspend operations at plants in Texas, Kansas and Iowa, but continue to operate one in South Dakota. The company blamed social media and news organizations, specifically ABC News, for what it called a gross misrepresentation of its product and process.

On April 2, AFA Foods, a Pennsylvania-based competitor to BPI, filed for bankruptcy protection, citing reduced demand stemming from the media's coverage of "pink slime."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Casey Anthony May Be Grilled by Lawyer for Defamation

Red Huber-Pool/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- The lawyers for the real Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez are suing Casey Anthony for defamation, but they intend to grill the woman acquitted of killing her daughter during her civil deposition because "America wants justice."

Fernandez-Gonzalez's lawyers have asked the court to compel Anthony to sit for a deposition because they fear that once she leaves jail on Sunday that she will "leave the jurisdiction of this court, disguise herself, change her name, etc., making it impossible to ever depose her."

Fernandez-Gonzalez is suing Anthony for using her name when she told Orlando, Florida police that her 2-year-old daughter Caylee was stolen by a babysitter and gave police her name.  Anthony stuck to that lie for three years before her lawyer told the court at the opening of her murder trial that the babysitter never existed and that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family pool.

John Morgan, the lawyer for Fernandez-Gonzalez, intends to demonstrate the hardship that Anthony allegedly caused his client, who is a 42-year-old mother of six.  He also intends to interrogate Anthony about Caylee's death.

"The first question I'm going to ask her is, 'Tell us the last time you saw Caylee.'  The second is, 'Tell us when you found out she was dead," Morgan told ABC News.

The lawyer dismissed anticipated objections from Anthony's lawyers that these questions are not relevant to Fernandez-Gonzalez's legal claims.

"Everything about the death of the child is not only relevant, it's very relevant.  It's the essence of the case," Morgan said.

Morgan believes he is acting on behalf of those people in the country who are outraged by Anthony's not guilty verdict.

"America wants justice.  They want to make [Casey Anthony] sit down and tell them what happened," Morgan said.

"When Zenaida first came to me, we never thought Casey would see the light of day again," Morgan said.  "It was never about money in the beginning.  Now, it's about accountability and responsibility."

Lawyers for the two sides are scheduled to meet Friday to work out details of the deposition, and Anthony is scheduled to be deposed next Tuesday.  A trial is scheduled for next February.

Anthony's lawyers filed a brief Thursday asking that both hearings be cancelled because Casey Anthony, 25, has suffered "trauma" from her six-week murder trial.  They also said that having the dates and locations of her deposition made public put her "safety in jeopardy" because of the "numerous threats that have already been made against her."

If forced to be deposed, her lawyers added, she will plead the Fifth Amendment, refusing to answer on the grounds that she would incriminate herself.

Besides the Fernandez-Gonzalez lawsuit, Anthony also faces a suit for $100,000 by EquuSearch, the volunteer search organization that hunted for Caylee after being assured by Anthony that her daughter was alive and pleading with them to help find Caylee.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio