Opening statements of BPI's $1.9 billion lawsuit against ABC New - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Opening statements of BPI's $1.9 billion lawsuit against ABC News concluded Monday


A jury heard opening statements in the $1.9 billion dollar defamation lawsuit Beef Products Incorporated filed against ABC News and Jim Avila. 

BPI claims ABC made dozens of false statements about their signature product, lean finely textured beef, or LFTB.

More than a dozen attorneys, press from across the country, and the 16-person jury all came together for the first day of testimony in BPI's lawsuit against ABC. Opening statements began with the plaintiffs, BPI.

Lead attorney Dan Webb began by giving a background of the case.

Webb said that from March 7th to April 3rd of 2012, ABC did more than 130 defamatory media impressions that gave false statements about LFTB. Webb said that, in just two weeks, ABC's reports ruined a family-owned company that took more than 30 years to build. 

"On March 26th there was a press conference at BPI held at headquarters in Dakota Dunes and they had to stand before news cameras and had to announce they lost 75% of their business because of what ABC had done and had to close three out of four of their production centers," said Dan Webb, "So the mood was different at BPI but you're going to see the e-mails and the e-mails at ABC were gleeful...for what they had done."

In those reports BPI claims ABC made statements that LFTB is not nutritious, not safe to eat and BPI improperly got LFTB approved by the USDA as ground beef.

 ABC argued in their opening statements that the defamatory term they used in their reports wasn't coined by them. It's a statement BPI agrees with. 

"'Pink slime' is Dr. [Gerald] Zirstein's opinion of what LFTB looked like in the production process after he actually went to BPI's plant and did a tour in 2002 and after he talked to a BPI employee and referred to the product as goop ," said Dane Butswinkas.

Butswinkas also stated that the term associated with LFTB was used more than 3,800 times before the reports by ABC.

 ABC now takes a back seat in the trial as BPI gets to present all of its evidence first. 

Tuesday's testimony will pick back up with Columbia University marketing professor Dr. Ran Kivetz.

Previous Story

It's a day five years in the making.

Lawyers delivered opening statements in the one-point-nine billion dollar defamation lawsuit filed by Beef Products Incorporated against ABC News and reporter Jim Avila. 

With the jury seated, Eldon and Regina Roth-- the owners of BPI-- and defendant Jim Avila were in the courtroom, today, as the long awaited trial got underway.

It all began with the plaintiffs.

BPI's lead attorney Dan Webb began by giving a background of BPI as a company.

Then, Webb went into how they will prove their case.

Citing ABC News and Avila did a number of defamatory reports about BPI's signature product "lean finely textured beef", or LFTB, back on March 7th, 2012. 

BPI stated that from March 7th to April 3rd of 2012, ABC did more than 130 media impressions of the story which cut BPI's demand by 75% in just two weeks.

ABC argued that their reports were a question of labeling LFTB on ground beef, and not the safety of the product.

ABC's attorney Dane Butswinkas argued that's a question that was cooked up in this lawsuit.

ABC also stated that neither they, nor Jim Avila, coined the two-word derogatory term associated with LFTB.

BPI agreed with that statement. 

BPI presented its first witness today, Dr. Ran Kivetz, who's a marketing professor at Columbia University.

In his research, Kivetz says that not only were the news reports damaging, but the republication of them online made it even more extensive.

"ABC News would take the TV broadcast that aired in the evening prime time slot on World News with Diane Sawyer," said Dr. Ran Kivetz, marketing professor at Columbia Univ., "They would take many of these broadcasts and within an hour or two hours and would post them in a video on their website. And that would allow even more people to see their broadcast."

Opening statements for both sides concluded at 2 p.m. 

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