The Associated Press reports that a jury has ordered the world’s largest pork producer to pay $473.5 million in a nuisance lawsuit. In Raleigh, N.C., the federal jury determined that the producer, which operates three industrial-sized hog farms are liable to pay neighbors for odors, flies and noisy trucks.
Smithfield Foods was ordered to pay the damages to six neighbors, who complained that they repeatedly asked the company to rein in the nuisances of the farm.
$23.5 million was awarded in compensatory damages and $450 million in punitive damages. The $450 will be reduced to state limits of $94 million.
Previously, two related lawsuits ordered Smithfield to pay $75 million, which was also reduced to state legal amounts.
State legislators are now trying to protect against nuisance lawsuits by eliminating the right of neighbors to sue an agribusiness. Critics say it would be an attack on private property rights. National legislation may result after several industry executives reached out to representatives from Delaware, Texas, Georgia and North Carolina.
Thousands of pigs were held at the farms in question by subsidiaries of Smithfield. The plaintiffs’ lawyers claimed the company enforced strict contracts on how the farmers raised the animals, preventing the local farmer from addressing the neighbors’ concerns.
*Photo credit Associated Press