A Canadian judge has dismissed a CA$210 million ($158 million) defamation lawsuit filed by Subway against the CBC, which had reported the sandwich chain may have been selling some poultry products that were only 50 percent chicken DNA.
Justice E.M. Morgan of the Ontario Superior Court ruled on Friday that the CBC investigation met the “public interest test” and is protected under the so-called anti-SLAPP.
The legal code provision allows a defendant to ask the court to dismiss a lawsuit if they can show it was to shield the plaintiff from criticism and prevent free speech on a matter of public interest, the CBC reported.
“The Marketplace report raised a quintessential consumer protection issue. There are few things in society of more acute interest to the public than what they eat,” Morgan wrote in his ruling.
A judge has dismissed a $210-million defamation lawsuit filed by Subway against CBC, which reported it may have been selling poultry products that were only 50 percent chicken DNA. (Photo: iStock)
“I consider that CBC has satisfied its burden.”
Subway launched the lawsuit in April 2017, claiming that the CBC report caused significant sales losses.
The investigative report at the center of the lawsuit involved the news organization sending samples of chicken from five major fast-food restaurants to a lab for DNA analysis. The results suggested that some of Subway’s chicken products may contain slightly more or slightly less than half chicken DNA.
Subway disputed the report after it aired in February 2017.
The private food chain later filed a defamation lawsuit that accused the CBC of acting “recklessly and maliciously” in airing the report. The tests conducted on the chicken, the company said, “lacked scientific rigor.”
CBC stood by the story in a statement defending the report and pointed out that it gave Subway the chance to refute the findings before it aired and appeared online.
“CBC News has and continues to maintain that our journalism was fair, accurate and within the public interest,” CBC news general manager and editor-in-chief Jennifer McGuire said in response to Friday’s ruling.
“Needless to say, we are happy with this decision.”