Jury Awards $473.5 Million to Six Residents for Mismanagement of Hog Farm

A Federal Jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina awarded $473.5 million to six residents near a North Carolina Farm run by Murphy-Brown L.L.C. for the mismanagement of hogs on their farm. Murphy Brown L.L.C. is run by a Chinese owned pork producer named Smithfield Foods Inc., which is one of the world’s largest pork processors and hog producers in the U.S. According to court filings, the jury awarded $3 million to $5 million in compensatory damages and $75 million in punitive damages to each of the six residents.

The lawsuit accused Murphy Brown of not taking adequate steps to manage the large number of hogs on the farm, leading to odor, noise, swarms of pests, and the possibility of disease spreading to the nearby residents. The Wall Street Journal reported that this was the third lawsuit in a row that the company had lost over the excessive noise and odor caused by the farm.

According to state regulations, hog farmers must mitigate the amount of air and water pollution generated by lagoons and cesspits where hog waste is stored. To make matters worse, the contents of the lagoons are often sprayed onto the farms themselves. Consequently, much of the waste becomes airborne and is carried to neighboring towns.

Besides the various nuisances connected to the hog waste pits, there can be severe environmental harm to local water sources located near concentrated animal feeding operations (or CAFOS). One study found that such operations can lead to higher levels of nitrates and ammonia in streams near CAFOs. The increased ammonia and nitrates have been linked to algae blooms that build up in still-water areas and kill massive amounts of marine life. Further, they have been known to be linked to a condition known as “blue baby syndrome,” which can be fatal.

If you or someone you know has suffered damages due to the wrongful conduct of another person or company, contact an experienced attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling (713) 222-7211 or toll free at 713-222-7211.