By Jonathan Stempel and P.J. Huffstutter
(Reuters) - ABC News has failed to persuade a South Dakota state judge to dismiss a $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit by a meat processor complaining about a series of reports that referred to its signature product as "pink slime."
Judge Cheryle Gering of the Union County Circuit Court ruled on Thursday that Beef Products Inc may pursue most of its case against ABC, a unit of Walt Disney Co, and others including news anchor Diane Sawyer and reporter Jim Avila.
BPI claimed that ABC harmed its reputation and cost sales by mischaracterizing its "lean finely textured beef" as "pink slime" in reports aired in March and April 2012.
While not deciding whether defamation occurred, Gering let BPI pursue 22 of its 27 claims, including over alleged product disparagement and interference with business relationships.