Magazine article Workforce

Jury Orders ABC News to Pay Millions in Undercover-Investigation Case

Magazine article Workforce

Jury Orders ABC News to Pay Millions in Undercover-Investigation Case

Article excerpt

ON JANUARY 22, A NORTH CAROLINA JURY ORDERED NEW York City-based ABC Inc. to pay Salisbury, North Carolinabased grocery chain Food Lion Inc. more than $5.5 million in damages. Food Lion filed a lawsuit after ABC News ran an undercover report about Food Lion on its "PrimeTime Live" television show in 1992.

Although Food Lion denied that the show's report was true, the company objected to, and ultimately based its suit on, ABC's newsgathering techniques. These techniques involved two ABC producers posing as job applicants who were then hired by Food Lion under what the jury determined were false pretenses. The producers made false statements (used fake references and backgrounds) on their resumes and directly to Food Lion personnel officers so they would appear as average job applicants without ulterior motives.

Once on the job, the reporters recorded Food Lion store procedures with secret cameras and gathered other information while undercover to produce a report that ultimately alleged Food Lion regularly engaged in such practices as selling rat-gnawed cheese, tainted meat and overripe fish.

The jury, which deliberated for six days before returning a verdict in favor of Food Lion, found that ABC had committed fraud, trespassing and breach of loyalty in gathering information to produce its report. …

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