Jenner & Block

Firm Successfully Appeals Food Lion Verdict Against ABC

Bruce Ennis successfully appealed a judgment against client ABC, sued by a grocery store chain after the television network aired an unflattering exposé. The case centered around two reporters who posed as Food Lion employees after receiving a tip about unsanitary food practices.  Using cameras hidden in wigs, the reporters videotaped the practices and featured the footage on Primetime Live in 1992.  Food Lion sued ABC for fraud, trespassing and breach of loyalty.  In 1997, a jury awarded Food Lion $5.5 million, although a district court judge later reduced that to $316,000.  On appeal, Bruce argued that Food Lion sought to skirt daunting First Amendment standards to prove defamation by suing ABC not for libel but rather for violations of state law.  On this day in 1999, the Fourth Circuit rejected Food Lion’s fraud claim (and the $316,000 in damages tied to it) and upheld the trespass and breach of loyalty claims, but reduced the damages to $3.  Sadly, the Food Lion matter would be Bruce’s last major case before he succumbed to cancer.

 

TAGS: 1995-2004, B Ennis, Food Lion

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