Capital Cities-ABC Inc. will have to pay Food Lion only $315,000 rather than the $5.5 million jury award for a hidden-camera expose that accused the grocery chain of selling rat-gnawed cheese and rotting meat, a federal judge ruled Friday.
In a 34-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Carlton Tilley gave the company 14 days to accept the reduction or else he said he would order a retrial of the punitive damages phase of the trial.
In January, a jury awarded Food Lion $1,402 in compensatory damages for fraud, trespass and breach of loyalty for the report that aired Nov. 5, 1992, on ABC’s “PrimeTime Live.” The money was for the cost of hiring and paying two ABC producers who got jobs in Food Lion stores in North Carolina and South Carolina and then wore spy cameras and hidden recorders on the job.
The same jury awarded Food Lion $5.5 million in punitive damages because ABC representatives lied in order to videotape evidence.
“The ratio of overall punitive damage award assessed against Capital Cities-ABC Inc. to the compensatory damage award is approximately 2,857 to one. A ratio of 2,857 to one is certainly suspect,” Tilley wrote.
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