Farm groups pushing back against nuisance lawsuits
The verdicts in nuisance lawsuits against North Carolina pork producers continue to garner national attention.
The first judgement from three trials which awarded neighbors of North Carolina hog farms more than 500-million-dollars in punitive damages last year is being appealed.
Andy Curliss, CEO of the North Carolina Pork Council says these nuisance lawsuits aren’t about trying to resolve a dispute between neighbors. “These are big litigation, class action lawyers,” he says. “They have very carefully targeted and identified these cases in an effort to sue modern agriculture.”
He tells Brownfield pork producers from around the country are watching what happens with the appeal. “All of agriculture is very concerned about how these cases have played out,” he says. “If these verdicts are allowed to stand, all of agriculture is threatened by what has happened here.”
Curliss says the lawsuits have served as a reminder that the ag industry needs to have a complete understanding of their state’s Right to Farm laws. “It’s a balancing act,” he says. “But, in this case, the Right to Farm didn’t protect a farm that it should have. It’s imperative that all of agriculture understand that and makes sure the proper protections are in place.”
Juries in three separate trials awarded punitive damages of more than $500 million to neighbors of North Carolina hog farms last year. North Carolina law states punitive damages should be awarded only if the defended has acted with “fraud, malice, or willful or wanton conduct.” Curliss says in this case, the farmer was in full compliance with North Carolina’s comprehensive regulatory requirements – as well as industry-wide practices. Those are conditions that should protect defendants from punitive damages.
AUDIO: Andy Curliss, North Carolina Pork Council