Citation. Auvil v. CBS “60 Minutes”, 1996 U.S. LEXIS 2831, 517 U.S. 1167, 116 S. Ct. 1567, 134 L. Ed. 2d 666, 64 U.S.L.W. 3726 (U.S. Apr. 29, 1996)
Brief Fact Summary. In a segment, CBS 60 Minutes (Defendant) told the public that a chemical sprayed on Plaintiff’s apples was dangerous. Plaintiffs sued Defendant for product disparagement. Facts.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. For a product disparagement claim to be actionable, Plaintiff must prove, inter alia, the falsity of the disparaging statements.
Defendant aired a segment on daminozide, a chemical growth regulator sprayed on apples. The broadcast was largely based on a Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report. Scientific research had indicated that daminozide breaks down into a carcinogen. Following Defendant’s broadcast, consumer demand for apples decreased dramatically. The apple growers and others dependent upon apple production lost millions of dollars and many growers lost their homes and livelihoods. In 1990, eleven growers (Plaintiffs) sued Defendant, the NRDC and a public relations firm used by NRDC for product disparagement. The district court held that Plaintiffs failed to prove the falsity of the message conveyed by Defendant’s broadcast. Plaintiffs appealed. Issue.
In order to prove product disparagement, must Plaintiffs show that the statements were false?