Here are some other issues that can provide better insight to their situation:
- Fecal matter on houses
- Animal parts scattered in and around their property
- Contamination of wells
- Olympic swimming pools sized ditches filled with manure
These issues resulted in a reduced quality of life that compromised their health and air quality as well as the employment and use of their property. It also effected their ability to engage in outdoor activities such as doing laundry outside and having outdoor picnics.
McKiver, et al. v. Murphy Brown LLC No, 7:14-cv-180 (E.D.N.C.), neighbors of one of the farms complained that the open air lagoons and spray fields the farm used for waste management had negative effects on their health and quality of life. They also alleged that Murphy Brown had the means to implement a system that would not be as detrimental to the neighbors but chose not to.
A three week trial ensued which resulted in a verdict that awarded the plaintiffs $51 million in damages. However, that award was reduced in light of a state law that caps the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded.
McGowan et. al. v. Murphy-Brown, LLC No. 7:14-cv-000182 (E.D.N.C.). This trial involved a husband and wife who lived near a 4700 head hog farm. The trial would mark the first complaint the couple had filed against the farm and they were awarded $25 million in damages as a result.
A more recent trial, Jacobs et. al vs. Murphy Brown, LLC, No. 7:14-cv-00237 (E.D.N.C), involved the neighbors of three industrial scale hog farms. They were seeking damages for unreasonable nuisances they suffered from odors, rumbling trucks and an infestation of flies. The neighbors were awarded $473.5 million in damages, the largest verdict to date. This may be a sign that awards will continue to increase as more of these hog farm cases are tried.
Key Points of the Trials
In North Carolina, and other states in the U.S., right-to-farm laws are put in place to protect farmers from nuisance laws filed by individuals in rural areas. Often neighbors move into these rural areas and then attempt to use nuisance laws to stop operations that pre-date their residence.
In North Carolina, right to farm laws protect farmers from nuisance claims that may be filed when the area around the farm changes due to a residential development or similar activity. Neighbors may claim that the preexisting farm uses create a nuisance.
In the McKiver case, it was found that the farmers would not be protected by the right to farm law because the plaintiffs lived in the area before the farms were built.
Right to Farm Laws
However, it should be noted that every state’s right to farm law are different. For example, in Texas, the right to farm law applies to any agricultural facility that has been operating for one year and did nothing to change the conditions neighbors were complaining about.
In comparison to North Carolina where right to farm laws focus on the conditions in and around the operation, Texas focuses more on the conditions that may constitute the nuisance.
Another key point to take note of is that recovery was allowed in each of these cases even though the farms were technically performing their business legally. In the McKiver case, for example, the plaintiffs did not allege that Murphy Brown’s use of open-air lagoons and spray fields were illegal, rather they alleged that the company could have implemented a system which would not be as harmful or disruptive to their neighbors but chose not to.
While the awards given were limited to money damage, nothing prohibits the plaintiffs from seeking injunctive relief in the form of asking the court to require the farmers to change their ways of operating so as not to have as much of a negative impact on the surrounding residents.
A final point is that the chief issue was odor. With a possible rising trend in public opinion against agriculture, it is wise for hog producers and other agricultural businesses to take the proper precautions in reference to waste management.
Finding the Right Lawyer for Your Property Claim
If you are involved in a situation where you feel a neighbor’s behavior is resulting in a loss of the employment and use of your property, you need a reliable lawyer on your side.
Krause & Kinsman are a Kansas City legal team with experience in various facets of the law including mass tort cases. They understand how difficult it is to deal with large corporations and they are there to listen and help. They offer free case evaluations, reasonable rates and aggressive representation.
If a hog farms or processing plants in your area are engaging in actions that are negatively affecting your quality of life, don’t let them get away with it. Team up with a reliable lawyer to get the justice you deserve.