The Food Lion Scandal

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  • Topic: Ethics, Banana, The Cincinnati Enquirer
  • Pages : 6 (2194 words )
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  • Published : March 19, 2006
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This report will review the cases Food Lion vs. Capital Cities/ABC and Cincinnati Enquirer vs. Chiquita. Both of these cases involve laws and ethics in the field of journalism. A summary of each case (both leading up to and including the trial) will be given in the report. This will be followed by a list of the motivations behind each party for both of the cases. Next, at least three law and/or ethical issues from each case will be discussed. Finally, there will also be a timeline of significant dates in each case.

Food Lion operates more than 1150 supermarkets in 11 southern states.1 This case is built around ethical judgments made by journalists who decided to go undercover as employees at two of these locations. The employees recorded about 45 hours of footage in the meat handling in several departments in the stores. The footage was then used in an episode of Primetime. The footage was incriminating, providing "[Confirmation for] many of the charges originally made against Food Lion."2 The case then went to trial. Food Lion based their claim on fraud, breach of the employees' duty of loyalty, and trespassing. The jury found the defendants (ABC, two producers, and the two reporters) liable for fraud, the reporters liable for trespassing and breach of duty. 2 However, because Food Lion had decided to not sue for libel the judge did not allow them to ask for damages because of harm to the company's reputation. The jury awarded Food Lion $5.5 million in punitive damages, the trial judge reduced this to only 315,000. They also received $1400 for fraud (costs of training new employees) and $1 each for trespass and breach of duty. 2

ABC appealed the courts decision. They argued that they were protected on the grounds of the first amendment. Food Lion filed a cross appeal; they wanted damages for harm to their reputation even though they had not filed for libel. The Court of Appeals found that the punitive damages were to not be awarded. They punitive damages had been based on the charge of fraud, which the Court of Appeals overturned. The court decided in favor of Food Lion on ABC's appeal to the trespass and breach of duty claims. They upheld the $1 ruling. ABC was motivated to perform these actions because they were given a tip that these illegal practices were taking place in Food Lion supermarkets. They felt it was in the best interest of the consumers, both of their news and of the supermarkets, to know that this was taking place. During a broadcast of Primetime they aired footage that they obtained undercover posing as employees. They needed the footage and the access to the behind-the-scenes areas. In order to do this they performed an ethically questionable move. Was this move, although motivated by a desire to help the people, unethical and a crime? Food Lion was motivated in this case to respond to the accusations made against them. They had to respond with a lawsuit, or else they would be damaged financially and publicly. They were motivated by the almighty dollar. In an attempt to save their bank account, not necessarily the face of the company, they filed a suit against ABC. But obviously this single motivation was not enough to save them in the Court of Appeals. There were several laws that pertain to this case. They filed a suit based on three claims. Firstly, Food Lion accused the reporters of fraud. They argued that the reporters provided fake names, addresses, and information on their applications. This fraudulent action was their claim that they based most of their damage claims on. Unfortunately, for Food Lion, the final decision found in favor of ABC. Second, Food Lion argued that the reporters breached their duty of loyalty. Because they went in with the intent to hurt their employer rather than help them while remaining on the payroll, Food Lion believed they were in breach of this contract. The final decision ruled in favor of Food Lion on this charge. Finally,...
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