As the fifth hog nuisance lawsuit against Murphy Brown LLC, a subsidiary owned by Smithfield Foods, finished closing arguments this week, an appeals court in Virginia received an amicus brief for the first lawsuit.
The case currently ongoing is the second involving the farm of Joey Carter of Beaulaville, Va. In closing arguments, lawyer Michael Keaske asked the jury to award each of 10 neighbors to the farm compensatory damages of between $30 million and $50 million.
North Carolina Pork Council Responds:
In April 2018, a federal jury awarded 10 neighbors of Kinlaw Farms, a 15,000-head swine operation, a total of $750,000 in compensation and $500 million in punitive damages. The suit did not name the hog farm, focusing instead on Smithfield, who owns the animals. Three other cases also ended in favor of plaintiffs.
The appeal filing, made by the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Pork Producers Council and the North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation, said the N.C. Right to Farm Act of 1979 protects the farmers from these kinds of lawsuits.
The brief said the farm had complied with the state’s comprehensive regulations and industry-wide best practices. Additionally, it argues against punitive damages, which get awarded when there is “fraud, malice, or willful or wanton conduct.” It also questioned the jury pool, chosen from members of an urban area who were not allowed to visit a farm.