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Another Big Loss For Pork

Pigs Trough

On Friday, there was another big verdict against Pork farmers…

Chinese-owned pork giant Smithfield Foods Inc. lost a pivotal legal battle on Friday, as a federal jury awarded $25 million to a rural couple for the nuisance caused by living near a Smithfield contractor’s hog farm.
The lawsuit is the second in a series of complaints brought by 500 rural North Carolinians who live near Smithfield contractors storing manure in open pools. WSJ

This was the second big verdict against pork farmers in almost as many months.  Back in April, a jury awarded $50 million dollars to 10 families in eastern North Carolina.  There are currently hundreds of complaints against hog farmers in North Carolina and these bellwether cases are not a good sign for them.

The only good news for hog farmers is an old rule and a new one.  North Carolina general statute says that punitive damages are capped at $250,000 per client.  This is why the $50 million dollar verdict was reduced to 3.25 million.  This could mitigate the losses for Smithfield, but with hundreds of complaints in the pipeline, it might not help much.  A lot has been said about the recently passed, then vetoed, then overridden farm bill that provides protections for hog farmers.  This law, however, only applies to new complaints.  The hundred of complaints already on the books can move forward unhindered.  Obviously, this helps the hog farmers in the future but if these verdicts keep coming in at this pace the controversy over protections for hog farmers might be a moot point.

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