Aninat Schwencke wins damages for Chile Bimbo subsidiary

Friday, 3 March 2017 (3 days ago) by Vincent Manancourt (Latin Lawyer)

 Aninat Schwencke & Cia has helped Ideal, a Chilean subsidiary of Mexican baked goods company Grupo Bimbo, win 4.4 billion pesos (US$6.8 million) in damages from Chilean TV network Canal 13.

A still from the Canal 13 show 'Contacto'.

Yávar y Silva Abogados acted for Canal 13. The amount awarded is thought to set a new record for Chilean tort law proceedings.

In a judgement issued on 31 January, a Santiago civil court ruled that the network should compensate Ideal for lost earnings after Contacto, a , alleged that a selection of Ideal’s “light” bread range was no healthier than regular bread despite being marketed as such.

While the ruling acknowledged the freedom of the press – thought to be the first time a Chilean court has done so – it said proper journalistic procedure had not been followed in this case since Ideal had been given insufficient time to build a defence.

Canal 13 informed Ideal of its findings five days before the broadcast, while the baked goods company received the chemical analysis cited in the TV show three days after it aired.

"The company did not have the opportunity to review and refute the technical report in the programme. Therefore, the programme did not fully inform its audience and Ideal’s sales were affected as a result," says Aninat Schwenke's Paulo Román Reyes. 

In the broadcast, which aired in July 2013, Canal 13 used analysis carried out by a Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile laboratory to substantiate its claims. The analysis found the difference in calories between Ideal’s light and regular bread ranges was minimal.

Yávar y Silva Abogados’ José Pedro Silva Prado told Latin Lawyer that Canal 13 is preparing to appeal the ruling before the 13 March deadline.

“We are defending the freedom of press as an essential right in a democratic state based on the rule of law. We trust that the higher courts shall respect this freedom,” he adds.

Ideal filed the lawsuit in July 2014 and will also appeal the judge’s decision in March in a bid to increase its compensation; it is seeking around US$58 million in damages.

Ideal is not the first company to take legal action against Canal 13. French consumer products maker Danone, whose yoghurt product Activia was targeted by the same report, filed a suit seeking US$20 million in damages in 2014, but settled out of court the same year. Though the details of the settlement are confidential, it is thought free advertising was part of the deal.

The programme has also questioned the quality of Chilean retailer Jumbo’s own-brand olive oil. The Horst Paulmann-owned chain reached a confidential agreement in 2013, after filing for between US$15 and US$20 million in damages.

Counsel to Ideal

Partner Paulo Román Reyes and associates Marta Arias Cuevas and Miguel Aravena Cofré

Counsel to Canal 13

Yávar y Silva Abogados

Partner José Pedro Silva Prado and associate Macarena Oyarzún Ithurralde