Judge Puts Beef Against Oprah to Rest

09/18/2002 at 01:00 PM EDT

After four years of lingering litigation, a federal judge in Texas has dismissed an at-times absurd lawsuit that accused Oprah Winfrey of violating the state's "veggie libel" law by maligning the beef industry.

In findings that were revealed Tuesday, reports the Associated Press, U.S. District Judge Mary Robinson tossed out "all claims and causes of action asserted" by Cactus Feeding Club Inc. against the media queen, her production company (called Harpo, which is Oprah spelled backwards) and vegetarian activist Howard Lyman.

The lawsuit, filed in 1998, was similar to a 1996 suit against Oprah that had gone to trial in Robinson's court. The initial suit caused Winfrey, 48, to shift the setting of her show to Amarillo for several episodes during the trial.

After Winfrey won the first case -- which was based on her saying on the air that U.S. beef could be carrying mad cow disease -- 138 livestock owners sued her again. The second case soon landed in Robinson's court, where it basically stagnated for four years.

"It was kind of a soft landing to a hard trial," attorney Chip Babcock, who represented Winfrey, told AP.

Cactus chairman and chief executive officer Paul Engler, who was behind both lawsuits, said Tuesday that he agreed to the dismissal because he believes he won in the court of public opinion, "to prove to our consumers that America's beef is wholesome and nutritious."

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