Judge Cheryle Gering ruled Thursday that 22 of the 27 defamation claims pursued by BPI could proceed, according to a Reuters news report. The company says the network, with Diane Sawyer and reporter Jim Avila also named in the lawsuit, did damage to company and its lean finely textured beef in reports aired in the spring of 2012.

Sales of the beef product dropped drastically after ABC’s string of reports over several weeks. The company eventually closed three of its four operations, cutting 700 jobs.

“The entirety of the broadcasts can be reasonably interpreted as insinuating that plaintiffs are improperly selling a product that is not nutritious and/or not safe for the public's consumption,” the judge wrote.

Gering also said the contexts in which ABC made some of the statements to which BPI objected justified allowing the Dakota Dunes-based company to continue its case.

“For example, the use of the term 'pink slime' with a food product can be reasonably interpreted as implying that the food product is not meat and is not fit to eat, which are objective facts which can be proven,” the judge wrote.


ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said: "We will defend our reporting vigorously on the merits."

In seeking to dismiss the case, ABC had argued that it never said BPI's product was unsafe, and that the case was an attempt to chill media coverage of the industry and inhibit free speech.

See the full report hereend mark