Industry News - AM

Jury awards $50 million in nuisance case against Smithfield

By Susan Kelly on 4/27/2018

A jury in North Carolina on Thursday awarded more than $50 million in damages to neighbors of a hog operation that contracts with Smithfield Foods’ Murphy-Brown LLC unit, who complained of intense odors, noise and other problems in the public nuisance lawsuit, according to court documents.

Jurors awarded neighbors of the 15,000-hog operation $750,000 in compensation and $50 million in damages designed to punish the corporation that owns the animals; each of the 10 plaintiffs in this case was awarded the same $5,075,000.

However, North Carolina state law caps damage awards and would limit each plaintiff to $250,000 in damages plus the $75,000 in compensation.

Smithfield, in an emailed statement, said it would appeal the verdict to the Fourth Circuit.

“These lawsuits are an outrageous attack on animal agriculture, rural North Carolina and thousands of independent family farmers who own and operate contract farms. These farmers are apparently not safe from attack even if they fully comply with all federal, state and local laws and regulations. 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,” Smithfield spokeswoman Keira Lombardo said.

“Plaintiffs’ counsel at trial relied heavily on anti-agriculture, anti-corporate rhetoric rather than the real facts in the case. These practices are abuses of our legal system, and we will continue to fight them,” Lombardo said.


Neighbors of the hog operation said spraying of effluent onto fields sent animal waste drifting into their homes and coating outdoor surfaces of their properties. The case is the first of potentially dozens of similar lawsuits that have been filed in North Carolina against Murphy-Brown, and was seen as a key indicator of how the rest of the cases might turn out.

North Carolina is the country's No. 2 state for hog production, after Iowa. The industry employs thousands in small towns and rural areas across the state.

Loading Comments