ABC News' characterization of a South Dakota meat processor's ground-beef product as "pink slime" almost put Beef Products Inc out of business, BPI's lawyer said on Monday in the opening salvo of a closely watched trial.
The $5.7 billion lawsuit pitting big agriculture against big media is the first major court challenge against a media company since accusations of “fake news” by U.S. President Donald Trump and his supporters have become part of the American vernacular.
The trial is expected to run eight weeks.
BPI claims ABC, a unit of Walt Disney Co, and its reporter Jim Avila defamed the company by using the term “pink slime” and making errors and omissions in its 2012 reporting.
But ABC lawyer Dane Butswinkas said "pink slime" was a common term, used more than 3,800 times in the media prior to ABC's reports.
In the aftermath of ABC's broadcasts, BPI closed three of its four processing plants and said its revenue dropped 80 percent to $130 million.
"That success took about 30 years to succeed and it took ABC less than 30 days to severely damage the company," a lawyer for BPI, Dan Webb, said in court.