Food Lion suit says ABC sent undercover reporter

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Food Lion Inc. sued the ABC television network yesterday, accusing a news employee of lying to get a job with the supermarket and of improperly gathering information on Food Lion.

The lawsuit contends that the news employee, Lynne Litt, producer of "Prime Time Live," apparently smuggled in audio or video equipment and made recordings during the two weeks in May that she worked at Food Lion stores in Longview and Newton, N.C.


Ms. Litt, the suit alleges, used a false name on her application, lied about meat-counter experience and falsely said she wanted a career with Food Lion, based in Salisbury, N.C.

Food Lion is asking a Forsyth County court for unspecified damages because Ms. Litt was a poor worker. More significant, it wants ABC stopped from airing any tapes made on Food Lion property.


"ABC and Litt will use these materials in a misleading fashion designed to cause, or that will cause, irreparable harm to Food Lion's reputation," the lawsuit says.

Julie Hoover, a spokeswoman for ABC, said the network "will not be intimidated" by the suit.

"We're investigating Food Lion, and we believe there is an important story here," she said. "We will review the charges, but we will not be intimidated from pursuing the story."

Mike Mozingo, a spokesman for Food Lion, said that ABC staff members have not yet interviewed Food Lion executives and that the company did not know the subject of the piece or the projected broadcast date.

Courts rarely grant requests to restrain broadcasts, even if the information was improperly obtained.

"Courts routinely reject such attempts to prohibit broadcasters and newspapers from publishing news," said Jon Buchan, a lawyer for newspapers. "Story subjects have other remedies if they have been wronged by a news reporter's actions."

In a 1990 case, a reporter for the TV show "Inside Edition" posed as a patient and surreptitiously taped a diet doctor. A federal district court granted the doctor's request to stop the tape's broadcast, but an appeals court reversed that decision.

Rumors of a "Prime Time Live" segment have circulated on Wall Street for a month, after Diane Sawyer, the show's anchorwoman, visited a Food Lion in Mocksville, N.C. Mr. Mozingo said she looked around the meat counter before leaving.


The chain has 58,000 employees and 940 stores in 13 states.