A North Carolina jury found that a Smithfield Foods hog farm posed a nuisance to neighbors and awarded them $25 million in damages last Friday. The trade website Meating Place Dot Com says the plaintiffs, Elvis and Vonnie Williams, won the second of what is expected to be dozens of cases that allege the waste, odors, and noise from the company’s farms diminish the quality of life for their neighbors. Back in April, the jury in the first case awarded neighbors $50 million in damages, but that was cut to $3 million because of a state law that puts a cap on damage awards. The National Pork Producers Council says settlements like these set a dangerous precedent for the industry at a time when markets are extremely volatile. NPPC President Jim Heimerl says America’s hog farmers already face serious headwinds, which includes export market uncertainty because of trade disputes. “We can’t allow trial lawyers to abuse our legal system and threaten the livelihoods of livestock-farming families, the rural economy, and raise prices for consumers,” Heimerl says. The latest jury decision comes the same week that the North Carolina legislature, in response to the first verdict in favor of the residents, enacted a law protecting hog farms from nuisance lawsuits.
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