By P.J. Huffstutter
Jan 17 (Reuters) - Beef Products Inc, the meat processor
suing ABC News over reports about its beef product that was
labeled "pink slime" by critics, wants the case to be moved out
of the federal judicial system and back to a South Dakota state
The case involves ABC reports last spring on lean finely
textured beef (LFTB), a product used in ground beef. Beef
Products contends the reporting was defamatory and falsely
portrayed the product as unsafe, accusations the network denies.
Which court ultimately oversees the case, and rules on
whether it goes forward, has been one of the first steps in the
high-profile lawsuit brought by the privately held South Dakota
meat processor against the network, a unit of Walt Disney Co.
In court papers filed on Monday, BPI's attorneys argued that
a state court is the proper forum because the case also involves
two related companies: BPI Technology Inc and Freezing Machines
Inc that do business in South Dakota and are incorporated in
Delaware. BPI and the two other entities are all owned by Eldon
and Regina Roth.
The ABC broadcasts "harmed each company's reputation,
destroyed the business relationships that each had developed
with LFTB customers, and caused LFTB sales to plummet," the
plaintiffs said in papers filed before U.S. District Judge Karen
Schreier in Sioux Falls.
An ABC spokesman declined to comment on Thursday.
ABC has sought to have BPI Technology and Freezing Machines
dismissed from the case and has also petitioned to have the
entire lawsuit thrown out.
BPI filed the complaint in September in Union County Circuit
Court, but ABC later moved it to the federal court.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs contend that the ABC
broadcasts and online reports destroyed sales and forced BPI to
close three plants and lay off hundreds of employees.
The plaintiffs are seeking $400 million in damages for lost
profit they say was caused by the ABC reports. The damages could
be tripled under South Dakota's Agricultural Food Products
Disparagement Act. BPI and the other entities are also seeking
Defendants sometimes prefer to fight lawsuits in federal
courts where procedures are more standardized. Disagreements
over where a lawsuit belongs can slow down a case in the early
The case is Beef Products Inc et al v. American Broadcasting
Cos et al, Circuit Court of South Dakota, Union County, No.
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