March 27 (Reuters) - ABC News has failed to persuade a South Dakota state judge to dismiss a $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit by a meat processor complaining about a series of reports that referred to its signature product as "pink slime."
Judge Cheryle Gering of the Union County Circuit Court ruled on Thursday that Beef Products Inc may pursue most of its claims against ABC, a unit of Walt Disney Co.
BPI sued ABC, news anchor Diane Sawyer, reporter Jim Avila and others, claiming that ABC harmed its reputation and cost sales by mischaracterizing its "lean finely textured beef" as "pink slime" in reports aired in March and April 2012.
"We are pleased with the court's decision, which rejected nearly all of the defendants' arguments," Erik Connolly, a lawyer for BPI, said in an email. "We look forward to starting discovery and ultimately presenting our case to a jury."
ABC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York and P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago. Editing by Andre Grenon)