A federal jury awarded more than $50 million in damages Thursday, to plaintiffs in a nuisance case against pork industry leader Smithfield Foods, who they hold responsible for intense odor and other disturbances that they say prevented them from enjoying their residences. Read the court details here: McKiver et al v. Murphy-Brown, LLC.
Jurors awarded 10 neighbors of a 15,000-head swine operation a total of $750,000 in compensation and $50 million in damages “designed to punish the corporation that owns the animals,” the Associated Press reports.
Jurors decided "the defendant owed them (neighbors) a standard of care in terms of trying to minimize the odors and other undesirable fallout from their processes," said Wake Forest University law professor Sidney Shapiro, who has followed the cases. "Apparently the jury decided they (Smithfield) knew about and disregarded all this fallout even though they could do something positive to reduce it."
"The lawsuits are a serious threat to a major industry, to North Carolina's entire economy and to the jobs and livelihoods of tens of thousands of North Carolinians," said Keira Lombardo, Smithfield senior vice president in a statement.
Kinlaw Farms, the hog farm at the center of dispute, was not named in the lawsuit, as lawyers instead targeted pork giant Smithfield, who owns the animals.
This is the first of 26 lawsuits by 500 neighbors complaining about hog operations in eastern North Carolina. Testimonies during the three-week trial say Smithfield should have taken more steps to modernize manure technologies on the farm like in other states. New technologies are used when economically feasible, industry leaders say.
Smithfield Foods said it would appeal the decision.