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On Thursday, a jury ordered a major hog farm in North Carolina to compensate a group of neighbors for the nuisance produced by its 15,000-head operations. The neighbors have been complaining about foul smells and noise for decades but no one listened.
Federal jurors decided this week that 10 families living next to the hog farm should be given $50 million in damages and $750,000 in compensation.
Neighbors didn’t sue the parent company of the Bladen County farm. They filed lawsuits against its local operations in the U.S., including the China-owned Smithfield Foods.
More than 500 people have filed similar nuisance lawsuits regarding hog farm operations. It is the first time a federal jury sided with the neighbors.
Hog Farm Knew About the Nuisance but Did Nothing
Jurors found that hog operators should have ensured that people living in nearby homes are not exposed to the maximum fallout of their business. The jury also found that Smithfield was aware of the complaints but repeatedly ignored them.
Neighbors have filed complaints about excess spraying, pests, and foul odors coming from the hog farm for decades.
In North Carolina, the rules changed last year, making neighbors’ attempts to coerce hog farms via a lawsuit more difficult.
Smithfield Foods said they will fight the decision in court. The company’s Keira Lombardo noted that a nuisance lawsuit puts the state’s entire economy and jobs of tens of thousands of people in peril. According to court documents, Smithfield refused to address neighbors’ complaints to keep costs down.
Its farms host animals together, collect their waste into pits, wait for the bacteria to break down the waste, and spray the resulting product onto the nearby fields with special spray guns. Neighbors have complained about the spraying methods, which result in odors and particles of animal waste that reach their homes.
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