A West Virginia pharmacy owner says CBS newscasts maliciously made him the face of the West Virginia painkiller epidemic and put him out of business, according to a $15 million lawsuit filed in West Virginia federal court.
Samuel Ballengee is suing CBS, anchors Scott Pelley and Jim Axelrod and producer Ashley Velie, claiming they knowingly publishedstatements about him during multiple CBS Evening News broadcasts.
Ballengee says Tug Valley Pharmacy, which he opened in 2007, was involved in civil litigation in 2010, 2011 and 2012 when several area doctors and pharmacies were sued by customers and/or patients. He says he was able to keep his business and reputation intact during the litigation, which is still pending.
But beginning in January 2016, CBS Evening News ran a series of stories about a painkiller epidemic in West Virginia, and specifically mentioned that Tug Valley was being sued for negligently filling prescriptions.
Ballengee claims CBS ly implied that he "had in the past and was in the present intentionally and illegally dispensing prescriptions while making millions of dollars in profit" and was "intentionally contributing to drug addiction to profit from the addiction."
He says the statements caused pharmaceutical suppliers to cut ties with Tug Valley and he was personally labeled as "non-rebateable," which according to the complaint means any distributors who worked with him would face backlash from drug manufacturers.
Eventually, he says he sold his business for $900,000 despite a valuation of $2.2 million. "The sale of the business saved the jobs of [Ballengee's] employees, but left [him] with a damaged professional reputation, a damaged personal reputation, without a job, without a source of income, and without a business he had built from the ground up," states the complaint. (Read it in full here.)
Ballengee is suing for defamation,light, tortious interference and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He's seeking at least $15 million in damages and an injunction preventing CBS from continuing to disseminate the statements and ordering the company to issue a retraction or apology.
CBS has not yet replied to a request for comment.
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