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Agricultural News


Pork Industry Stung by Federal Court Verdict Against Smithfield-Murphy Brown in North Carolina

Mon, 30 Apr 2018 03:18:48 CDT

Pork Industry Stung by Federal Court Verdict Against Smithfield-Murphy Brown in North Carolina A federal jury reached a verdict worth $50 million in the first of 26 lawsuits against North Carolina pork producer Murphy Brown. According to the Raleigh, NC based NewsObserver.Com, "A North Carolina jury awarded $50 million to neighbors of a 15,000-hog farm in Eastern North Carolina in a case being closely watched across the country by environmentalists and the hog farm industry.


"The verdict, revealed late Thursday after a jury deliberated less than two days, is the first to come in a series of federal lawsuits filed against Murphy-Brown/Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer.
"In this case decided in a federal courtroom in Raleigh, 10 neighbors contended that industrial-scale hog operations have known for decades that the open-air sewage pits on their properties were the source of noxious, sickening and overwhelming odors. The stench was so thick, the neighbors argued, that it was impossible to get it out of their clothes."


Click here for their complete story after the verdict.


Smithfield says the environmentalists who have promoted these lawsuits have shopped this court case- moving from a state level court to the federal venue and got more favorable treatment there. In a strongly worded release after the verdict- "We are extremely disappointed by the verdict. We believe the outcome would have been different if the court had allowed the jury to (1) visit the plaintiffs' properties and the Kinlaw farm and (2) hear additional vital evidence, especially the results of our expert's odor-monitoring tests, as explained in detail below.


"In addition, media reports of a $50 million verdict are inaccurate and misleading. Punitive damages are limited to the greater of $250,000, or three times the amount of compensatory damages, which in this case were $75,000 per person. This means that each plaintiff should be awarded $325,000, for a total judgment for all 10 plaintiffs of $3,250,000. (this is because of a state law recently enacted to limit punitive damages in cases like this)


"These lawsuits are an outrageous attack on all animal agriculture (not only hogs, but poultry, cattle, etc.), rural North Carolina and thousands of independent family farmers who own and operate contract farms. 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."


The release goes on to say "From the beginning, the lawsuits have been nothing more than a money grab by a big litigation machine. Plaintiffs' original lawyers promised potential plaintiffs a big payday. Those lawyers were condemned by a North Carolina state court for unethical practices. 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."


Click here for the complete release from Smithfield- which details what they say the Federal Court refused to allow into the courtroom as evidence.


The major environmental group that has organized a lot of the litigation against the pork industry is Farm Sanctuary. They have produced multiple videos to help position their message against pork production- here is one of them that has received a lot of views- 






   

 

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