N.C. pork producer to pay $437.5 million in damages after locals complain of odors
By Kaitlynn Anderson
Members of the agricultural industry are disappointed by a recent verdict at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Six North Carolina residents claimed that Murphy Brown LLC, a local pork producer under Smithfield Foods Inc., failed to take “adequate steps to manage the number of hogs on the farm, leading to odor and the possibility of disease,” a Reuters article stated on Friday.
The jury awarded $3 to 5 million in compensatory damages and $75 million in punitive damages to each individual on Friday, the article stated. In total, the company will pay $437.5 million to the plaintiffs.
On the day the court announced the verdict, pork producers met with federal and state officials and lawmakers for the National Agriculture Leaders Roundtable in Raleigh, N.C., Friday’s NPPC release said.
At this meeting, farmers discussed the lawsuits that people have brought forth against 26 pork operations in the state due to noises and odors.
The Murphy Brown case is the third case the court has heard within the last three months, the release said.
“Enough is enough,” Howard Hill, an Iowa pork producer and past NPPC president, said in the release. “It’s time for our elected leaders to step up and stop this madness.”
The lawsuits could severely harm the industry.
“Some people … who brought these nuisance suits seem determined to destroy the hog industry in the state,” Jim Heimerl, president of the NPPC, said in the release. “If they succeed, they’ll put more than 46,000 people out of work and cost the state – the nation’s second-largest pork producer – millions of dollars in economic activity.”
And the effects could spread across the country.
“If the trial lawyers in the N.C. lawsuits are successful, they’ll likely go to other hog-producing states,” Dave Warner, communications director for the NPPC, told Farms.com today. “If this madness isn’t stopped, hog farmers, their employees and, ultimately, consumers will lose. No doubt, other sectors of the livestock industry could also face such lawsuits.”
National Pork Board/Pork Checkoff photo