Wallace and Graham is proud to represent hundreds of North Carolina rural families and property owners in their ongoing claims against the world’s largest hog producer, Smithfield Foods Hog Production Division. The briefs by the families and various nonprofit groups who support them have now been filed with the Appeals Court. To help set these briefs in context, some background on the lawsuits is in order.
Smithfield Foods is owned by WH Group, China’s largest pork producer. In 2013, WH Group purchased Smithfield and has since reported record profits. Smithfield’s Hog Production Division supplies the hogs that have led to up to $20 billion in revenues. Yet these profits have come at a severe cost.
For years, North Carolina families who live near the hogs have complained about the effects of the hog production enterprise. They have complained about the truck noise, the leaks from trucks carrying live and dead hogs, the flies, and the horrible fumes and odor. The hogs – which are owned by Smithfield – generate millions of gallons of waste. And the waste gets stored in giant open-air holding ponds, then sprayed on fields.
Many news articles have been published about these problems. And many scientific studies have shown that the germs, bacteria and foul fumes spread into local communities.
Smithfield grows millions of hogs in the state. Most of the pork leaves the state for sale. Most of the profits go overseas. Meanwhile, the waste stays here.
After years without change, finally the neighbors sued asking the jury to find that Smithfield Hog Production’s actions have caused a substantial and unreasonable interference in their ability to use and enjoy their properties.
So far, five cases have gone to trial in Raleigh. The juries in all five cases held Smithfield (which goes by the corporate name of Murphy-Brown) liable. The juries awarded the families money damages. However, the company has now appealed the verdicts.
On April 29, 2019, the families filed their brief with the Federal Court of Appeals. You can read it by clicking on the link below.
Scholars and nonprofit groups have also filed briefs. The most recent were filed on Monday, May 6. You can read each of those briefs by clicking on the links below.
The issues have extended beyond the courtroom. The company has lobbied the legislature to pass industry-friendly bills. The debate has played out in the public arena. The families have sought to publicize their side of the story.
The company knows that steps can be taken to remedy the problems. The pollution is estimated to add millions of dollars in costs to our healthcare system. And the affected counties are filled with open-air waste lagoons and contaminated soil. If the industry won’t bear the cost, it will ultimately fall on the citizens of North Carolina.
The company has tried to pit neighbor against neighbor and claim that the families are trying to put local farmers out of business. That is not true. The families did not make a claim against the farmers at trial. They only sought damages from Smithfield Hog Production, the company that owns all the hogs.
The families believe it is important not just to them, but to all of the citizens of North Carolina, that WH Group and Smithfield be required to take the necessary steps to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry.
Wallace and Graham will continue to provide updates as these cases proceed.
- The Plaintiffs’ appeal brief. (Doc. 46).
- Brief of Law Professors with expertise in tort and regulatory law. (Doc. 55).
- Corrected Brief of Waterkeeper Alliance. (Doc. 63).
- Brief of American Association for Justice. (Doc. 58).
- Brief of North Carolina Environmental Justice Network and Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help. (Doc. 59).
- Brief of the Humane Society of the United States. (Doc. 62).
- Brief of Dr. Lawrence B. Cahoon, Elizabeth Christenson, Dr. Brett Doherty, Mike Dolan Fliss, Dr. Jill Johnston, Bob Martin, Dr. Sarah Rhodes, Dr. Ana Maria Rule, Dr. Sacoby Wilson and Dr. Courtney Woods (Doc. 65).
- Corrected Brief of Public Justice and Food & Water Watch (Doc. 77).
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