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Late in 2020, we had a North Carolina Hog Farm Litigation settlement that ended several lawsuits filed against Murphy-Brown, LLC and Smithfield Foods. In May 2020, neighboring landowners filed a new set of federal lawsuits against Murphy-Brown and Smithfield, the same defendants in the prior lawsuits. Similar to the previous lawsuits, neighbors sued the companies that the farms grow for, not the actual hog farms themselves. In these lawsuits, the neighbors used legal theories based on trespass and negligence and not around nuisance. Recently, the federal judge hearing the lawsuit allowed it to continue and ruled the state’s right-to-farm law did not apply, though providing a defense in this case to the trespass and negligence claims. The judge also dismissed two other claims brought by the neighbors.
In 2019, we
continue to see decisions involving the application of the right-to-farm law
(RTF) defense in a few states. Recently,
the Court of Appeals of Indiana upheld a trial court’s decision applying the
state’s RTF law. In this case, the RTF
law applied to claims that a neighboring hog farm was creating a nuisance. Although over the past 18 months, we have
seen decisions involving RTF laws not applying to agricultural companies being
hit with large damage verdicts, it is crucial to remember that in many cases,
the RTF defense continues to apply and prevent large verdicts.
Hogs in hog barn. Image by Kevin Chang via flickr.com
The article is not a substitute for legal advice.
News broke recently of a $50 million jury verdict* for damages caused to neighbors of a large hog farm in North Carolina. The jury found that the hog farm was a nuisance to neighboring landowners. When many of us this saw this verdict, you may have had a similar thought to me: shouldn’t a state’s right-to-farm law should provide the hog farm a defense in this case. Before the jury’s verdict, the federal district judge hearing the case ruled that North Carolina’s right-to-farm law would not apply in this case. The judge ruled that there had not been a change in the condition in the area that would have allowed the right-to-farm law to act as a defense to the nuisance claims. Continue reading →