Smithfield Foods Ordered To Pay Millions In Damages To Neighbors Of Hog Farms
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A federal jury decided Friday that the world’s largest pork producer should pay $473.5 million to neighbors of three North Carolina industrial-scale hog farms for unreasonable nuisances they suffered from odors, flies and rumbling trucks.
The jury found that Smithfield Foods owes compensation to six neighbors who complained in their lawsuit that the company failed to stop “the obnoxious, recurrent odors and other causes of nuisance” resulting from closely packed hogs, which “generate many times more sewage than entire towns.”
The jury awarded $23.5 million in compensatory damages and $450 million in punitive damages, which will be reduced to a total of $94 million under limits in state law.
The case comes after two previous, related lawsuits rocked agribusiness in the country’s No. 2 pork-producing state. Juries in those two cases awarded damages of about $75 million intended to punish Smithfield, though those amounts also were required to be cut.
North Carolina legislators reacted by adopting new barriers against nuisance lawsuits that all but eliminate the ability of neighbors to sue Smithfield Foods or any other agribusiness. Critics billed the legislation as an attack on private property rights in order to protect a well-heeled industry.
U.S. Sen Thom Tillis and U.S. Rep. David Rouzer suggested they might seek national legislation after hearing Friday from agribusiness executives and agriculture officials from North Carolina, Georgia, Delaware and Texas in Raleigh.
“Today’s nuisance lawsuits that are destroying livelihoods and communities in North Carolina are the tip of the iceberg for what is to come absent a well-informed public and good public policy,” Rouzer said in a prepared statement Thursday. “This is a very slippery slope that threatens the very existence of every form of agriculture nationwide.”
Industry group the North Carolina Pork Council decried the jury’s decision in a statement warning that it could lead to more lawsuits across the country. 08-04-18