On November 19, 2020, in a 144 page opinion, the United States Fourth Circuit affirmed North Carolina state court jury’s verdict of liability for compensatory and punitive damages, and remanded the award of punitive damages for a rehearing on that issue based on federal evidentiary standards in Joyce McKiver, et al. v. Murphy-Brown, LLC d/b/a Smithfield Hog Production Division.
Smithfield challenged a jury verdict against it awarding compensatory and punitive damages to neighbors of its hog production facilities. The neighbors, residents of rural Bladen County, North Carolina, sought relief under state nuisance law from odors, pests and noises they attributed to farming practices Smithfield implemented at an industrial-scale hog feeding farm which included large pits called lagoons containing millions of gallons of hog waste and approximately eight million gallons of hog feces being sprayed into the air annually in their community. The state court jury returned a verdict in favor of the neighbors and awarded $75,000 in compensatory damages to each plaintiff, along with a total of $5 million in punitive damages, which was subsequently reduced to $2.5 million due to North Carolina’s punitive damages cap.
Factory farms prove unhealthy, unnatural and unnecessary for both human and nonhuman beings. They are detrimental to both human and nonhuman health, and destructive to the planet and the environment. Moreover, when the toxins seep into the soil, water carries toxins and can contaminate nearby fruit, vegetable and grain crops.