A federal jury in Greensboro, N.C., on Wednesday awarded a national supermarket chain over $5.5 million in punitive damages from ABC and two of its employees in a closely watched media case that focused on the propriety of widely used television news techniques like hidden cameras and undercover reporters.
Last month, the same panel ordered ABC to pay $1,400 in actual damages to Food Lion Inc., the chain, after finding that network producers had trespassed and committed fraud when researching a “PrimeTime Live” segment in 1992 that accused the company of selling spoiled meat.
While Food Lion officials disputed the accuracy of the ABC report, they did not sue the network for libel. Rather, they accused ABC of deception by using techniques like having producers submit fake resumes to get jobs in the meat department of company stores, and then using hidden cameras to film there.
Roone Arledge, the president of ABC News, defended the methods used by the network to report the segment and said ABC would appeal the verdict.