The federal judge presiding over the hog odor nuisance lawsuit against Murphy-Brown LLC, a division of Smithfield Foods, Inc., has reduced the damage sentence from more than $50 million to $3.25 million.
Senior U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt granted a motion made by attorneys for Murphy-Brown to impose North Carolina’s statutory cap on punitive damages. Under a 1995 state law, punitive damage awards are capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages or $250,000, whichever is greater.
The jury awarded the 10 plaintiffs in the case $750,000 in compensation in addition to the $50 million punitive damages. The decision means each of the plaintiffs would receive $325,000, a fraction of the $5.075 million the jury handed down a few weeks ago.
This case is one of 26 federal lawsuits filed against the company over hog farm odor.
Smithfield is appealing the verdict, saying: “These lawsuits are an outrageous attack on all animal agriculture (not only hogs, but poultry, cattle, etc.), rural North Carolina and thousands of independent family farmers who own and operate contract farms.” Read the full statement.