The pork industry is known to have a great deal of market value within the rural communities involved, especially considering Murphy Brown is the largest in the world. This has not made it easy for community members to find appropriate representation.
Last week, a jury awarded 10 plaintiffs a grand total of $420,000 in punitive and compensatory damages in a Duplin County, North Carolina hog nuisance trial against Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods.
The damages were awarded in what is becoming a long line of lawsuits against the pork producers – with more to come. Murphy-Brown has now lost all five of the cases over nuisance allegations it has faced in federal district court. Total damages have now reached more than $550 million, but the net pay out will eventually be closer to $97.2 million due to a state cap on punitive charges, according to an NC Policy Watch blog post.
Smithfield intends on appealing each case to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia and has yet to pay for the damages it has been charged with because of the appeals. Just last week, it appealed a $50 million case in Richmond, Virginia.
A brief filed by the American Farm Bureau Federation and others in support of Murphy-Brown claimed that while the Joyce McKiver, et al. v. Murphy-Brown LLC suit was aimed at Murphy-Brown, the practical result of the judgment is that the farmers involved will be unable to continue as hog farmers in the state.
“The only winners from this litigation are plaintiffs and their entrepreneurial lawyers, who walk away with windfall damages and enormous fees unrelated to any plausible measure of harm,” the March 5 brief states. “The losers are rural communities that stand to shed dollars, jobs and economic and social stability and consumers who lose the benefits of reliable and efficient methods of agricultural production.”
The brief was filed in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The pork industry is known to have a great deal of market value within the rural communities involved, especially considering Smithfield Foods is the largest pork producer in the world. This has not made it easy for community members to find appropriate representation.
“Our clients had difficulty finding local lawyers to represent them,” John Hughes, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs/appellees in the McKiver case, told North Carolina Business Daily.
He explained that his firm, Wallace and Graham, is located several hours away in Salisbury, North Carolina.
“Many of the community members had raised concerns but it did not lead anywhere,” Hughes said.