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'Major legal issue' sends jurors home early Tuesday in BPI-ABC case
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'Major legal issue' sends jurors home early Tuesday in BPI-ABC case

BPI trial preparation

A Union County Circuit Court courtroom in Elk Point, South Dakota, was mostly silent Tuesday after the judge in Beef Products Inc.'s defamation case against ABC sent jurors home early due to an undisclosed "major legal issue."

ELK POINT, S.D. | The 17th day of a landmark trial over Beef Products, Inc.'s defamation lawsuit against ABC News quickly came to a close Tuesday.

Shortly after bringing the jury into the courtroom at 8:30 a.m., Circuit Court Judge Cheryle Gering announced that a "major legal issue" had come up in the case. She then sent the jurors home for the day. 

Gering did not specify what type of legal issue was the cause. Attorneys for both sides were expected to meet with the judge to resolve the undisclosed issue.

The trial is scheduled to reconvene at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. ABC attorney Dane Butswinkas was cross-examining BPI expert witness Kimberly Neuendorf when court adjourned Monday afternoon.

BPI filed a $1.9 billion defamation lawsuit against ABC and correspondent Jim Avila in September 2012, claiming that ABC knowingly used false information about BPI's Lean Finely Textured Beef and interfered with its business relationships with its customers. ABC's series of reports in March and April 2012 regularly referred to the product, which is blended with ground beef to reduce fat content, as "pink slime."

Dakota Dunes-based BPI says the reports caused a backlash against the product that eventually cost the Dakota Dunes-based meat processor millions of dollars in sales, forcing it to close three of its four plants.

ABC has defended its stories as being factual and providing vital information to consumers.


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