In re Swine Farm Litigation
When Mona Lisa Wallace agreed to represent families living next to hog farms in 2013, little did she know then what she was getting into. Over the nearly seven years that followed, her Salisbury, North Carolina firm went up against the largest pork company in the world. The producer, Smithfield Foods, now owned by a Chinese conglomerate, pulled out all the stops. It tried to pass bills in the legislature to block the suits. It created and funded a proxy “grassroots” group, NC Farm Families, to generate sympathy from the public. Lawyers were tailed when they drove to meet families. Clients reported threats and intimidation. During the trial, industry groups sponsored a giant hog rally near the courthouse.
Mona Lisa persevered through it all aided by her talented team of lawyers and staff. Many in her firm lived on the road to try the cases against a defendant with unlimited resources represented by some of the most powerful international defense firms. Her clients had deep roots in their rural communities, only to have their lives changed when giant factory farms with their open-air waste cesspools were built in their backyards. What followed were things no property owner should ever have to endure – the horrible odor, clouds of flies, buzzards circling, trucks leaking filth waking them up in the middle of the night, and kids being teased for smelling like hogs.
A few months before the first trial, the powerful pork lobby worked with the Republican supermajority in the Legislature to pass a law that would have effectively granted the industry retroactive immunity from these suits. But Mona and her team fought it with everything they had, narrowly (by two votes) winning an amendment to exempt these lawsuits from the new legislation so they could fight on.
Working with legendary epidemiologist Dr. Steve Wing, who died before trial but bravely testified on video, and environmental engineer Dr. Shane Rogers, their team showed that there was pig fecal bacteria on the homes and in the air, explaining the sickening smells, headaches, vomiting, respiratory symptoms and other adverse physical symptoms.
Mona obtained critical trial assistance from renowned trial lawyer Mike Kaeske and his firm, and one of the nation’s leading jury consultants, Lisa Blue. This talented team endured five lengthy trials spanning a year winning each unanimously and achieving record-setting verdicts exceeding $500 million. Smithfield has appealed and the battle continues, but the results have already caused positive change in the industry. Mona and her firm are nominated for the second year in a row for trial lawyer of the year.
Team: Attorneys Mona Lisa Wallace, Mark Doby, John Hughes, Daniel Wallace, Whitney Wallace Williams, and Paralegal Linda Wike, Wallace and Graham, P.A., Salisbury, N.C.; Lynn Bradshaw and Michael Kaeske, Kaeske Law Firm, Austin, Texas; Lisa Blue, Baron & Blue, Dallas, Texas; and Legal Trial Assistant Sophie Flynn.
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