Disney has reported spending $177 million on a legal settlement during the quarter that its subsidiary ABC and a South Dakota meat producer announced a settlement in a high-profile defamation lawsuit.
Even just $177 million would likely represent roughly a year's worth of advertising revenue for ABC's evening news program, a significant sum for the network and a sign of how damaging defamation suits can be for media outlets after the Hulk Hogan case sent Gawker into bankruptcy.
Opening statements in the trial against ABC and correspondent Jim Avila were in early June, and the trial was scheduled to last until late July, according to an Associated Press story. Jurors are not always sympathetic with the media. "But we often see an uptick in cases after big verdicts or settlements, even if those cases do not have merit".
In a statement at the time, Beef Products Inc said: "We are extraordinarily pleased to have reached a settlement of our lawsuit against ABC and Jim Avila".
"Although we have concluded that continued litigation of this case is not in the company's interests, we remain committed to the vigorous pursuit of truth and the consumer's right to know about the products they purchase", ABC said.
The series of ABC News reports citing "pink slime" fueled a national outcry over the beef product, which in turn led the industry to stop using it, and to a series of plant closures and layoffs at Beef Products Inc.
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The trial began on June 5 in Elk Point, South Dakota and was expected to last eight weeks. ABC insisted that it still stood by its reporting, but there was little doubt who emerged the victor in the dispute.
ABC News was among several organizations, including The New York Times, to report on questions about the safety of the product, which was commonly incorporated into foodstuff sold in grocery stores and used in schools and fast-food restaurants. "Based on Disney's disclosure, it appears that Disney is funding $177 million of the settlement and its insurers are paying the rest".
"As Disney disclosed, $177 million is not the total settlement amount".
"Based on all the research we've done, that alone would make it the largest", Webb said in a phone interview.
Webb has also said the settlement "vindicated" the company.