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First hog farm nuisance lawsuit may be moving forward in NC

One pending federal nuisance lawsuit against Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, potentially could go to trial later this year in North Carolina. The lawsuit is just one of 26 nuisance lawsuits that have been filed against Murphy-Brown. Attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the case argue the lawsuits are not filed against individual farmers but rather against Murphy-Brown, with whom the farmers are contracted to raise hogs.

As many as 8 farms located in Bladen County could potentially be impacted by these nuisance lawsuits. They are  located in the White Oak and Lisbon communities. According to an interactive map published by the Raleigh News and Observer, the Bladen County farms include Bladen Springs, Farm 91/Farm 3091, Lisbon Sow Farm No. 1, Lisbon Sow Farm No. 2, Turnbull Farms, LLC, J. B. Priest Farm No. 3, Kinlaw Farm No. 1-No. 3, and J. B. Priest Farm No. 1. With a few exceptions, Murphy-Brown is listed as the owner of the majority, but not all of these farms. To view the interactive map, click here.

According to court documents, as many as 500 residents of North Carolina have filed lawsuits seeking compensation for such ailments as nausea, odor, truck noise, insects and headaches they blame on the neighboring hog farms. Attorney’s for Murphy-Brown filed a motion in Federal District Court for the Eastern Division in Wake County seeking a partial summary judgment on claims made by the plaintiffs seeking damages for health issues which was denied.

A series of motions was filed in July seeking partial judgements regarding “The North Carolina Right to Farm Act,” a motion for seeking a judge to remove plaintiff’s with an insufficient property interest in the case, a partial judgment regarding complaints made by Plaintiff Carl Lewis, among other issues.

In the request for a judgment to dismiss claims made plaintiff Carl Lewis, the Murphy-Brown’s attorneys argue Mr. Lewis does not reside on the property in question but he does operate a barbershop on the land. The defendant’s attorneys argue that because Mr. Lewis does not reside on the property,  there is no support for any claim for damages.

The North Carolina General Assembly adopted NC House Bill 467 earlier this year which places a cap on the amount of compensation which can awarded should a farm be found to be a nuisance.

NC Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the bill but the General Assembly overrode the veto on May 11, 2017. The legislation provides that a property owner can only collect damages in an amount equal to the reduction of their property’s fair market value. This legislation only applies to future lawsuits. It does not apply to lawsuits that have already been filed and are working their way through the judicial system.

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