Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Food Lion Takes the Offensive in ABC Fraud Case

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Food Lion Takes the Offensive in ABC Fraud Case

Article excerpt

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Two ABC producers showed no intention of working for Food Lion and spent their time on the job looking for information to use in a television expose, an attorney for the grocery chain argued Tuesday.

Attorney Andrew Copenhaver says the two defendants, Lynn Dale and Susan Burnette, "were in effect wearing two hats. They worked at ABC, but they acquired jobs at Food Lion." He also said there was evidence the producers encouraged or even created some of the bad conditions shown in the expose.

Food Lion is seeking billions of dollars in damages for lost business from ABC over a 1992 PrimeTime Live feature which illustrated poor food-handling procedures at stores in Hickory and Myrtle Beach, S.C. "They were wandering around the stores, working as ABC producers, going into offices, looking at time records on other Food Lion employees. These are things that were not part of their duties as Food Lion employees," Copenhaver said. Instead of suing the network for libel, Food Lion alleged in its lawsuit that ABC producers used illegal tactics to gather information for the story -- including fraud and trespassing by producers who got themselves hired by Food Lion. In his opening statement, ABC attorney Bill Jeffress disputed the grocery chain's claim that the undercover producers cheated the company by not doing the work they were hired to do. "They did do their jobs," Jeffress said. "They faked nothing. They committed no fraud, no trespass or breach of duty." An expert in media law said if successful, the lawsuit could lead to future court battles by companies attacking news-gathering methods. David Logan, a Wake Forest University law professor who has been following the case closely, said corporations would certainly adopt the same tactics to fight unflattering news reports if the Food Lion is successful. …

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