A North Carolina jury on Thursday reached an unanimous verdict in opposition to pork producer Murphy-Brown LLC in a landmark case that would pave the way in which for extra nuisance lawsuits in opposition to large-scale livestock operations.
The firm plans to enchantment.
In all, jurors awarded greater than $50 million to 10 plaintiffs who dwell close to the hog farm, setting compensatory damages at $75,000 and punitive damages at $5 million for every plaintiff.
It is unclear if a state legislation that caps punitive damages on the greater of thrice compensatory damages, or $250,000, would apply.
The plaintiffs accused Murphy-Brown of failing to take mandatory steps to get rid of obnoxious, recurrent odors and different causes of nuisance, together with pests that periodically plagued their properties.
Thursday’s jury verdict in North Carolina federal court docket is the primary in a collection of lawsuits in opposition to Murphy-Brown, the North Carolina-based subsidiary of China’s WH Group, the world’s largest pork producer which purchased the U.S.’s Smithfield Foods in 2013.
A second so-called bellwether case is slated to go to trial subsequent month.
Bellwether circumstances are chosen to check arguments and gauge doable recoveries for different equally located plaintiffs in an try to achieve a large-scale decision.
“These lawsuits are an outrageous attack on animal agriculture, rural North Carolina and thousands of independent family farmers who own and operate contract farms,”
a Smithfield Foods consultant, mentioned in a press release after the decision.
The U.S. is the second largest pork producer on the planet, behind China. North Carolina’s pig business is the second-largest within the U.S., behind Iowa.
—Jacob Bunge contributed to this text
Write to Maria Armental at [email protected]