A South Dakota judge on Thursday gave the green light to one of the most high-stakes defamation lawsuits in U.S. history. Judge Cheryle Gering denied ABC News’ motion to dismiss the $1.2 billion dollar lawsuit filed against it by Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) in the wake of a series of reports that BPI alleges led people to believe its product, known as lean finely textured beef, is unsafe, and ignited an industry backlash.
The case is now headed toward a trial where ABC personalities Diane Sawyer and Jim Avila will take the witness stand before a South Dakota jury, defending the network’s journalistic practices and its right to lead consumer-oriented crusades.
“We are pleased with the court’s decision, which rejected nearly all of the defendants’ arguments,” BPI’s attorney Erik Connolly said in a statement. ”We look forward to starting discovery and ultimately presenting our case to a jury.” ABC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.