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Legal claims have engulfed Smithfield Foods, the largest hog and pork producer in the world, after a number of eastern North Carolina residents filed bodily injury claims and property damage suits against the company.
Most of the suits came from people who live near hog farms.
In March a jury awarded 10 plaintiffs punitive and compensatory damages in excess of $400,000 in a hog nuisance trial. As a result, Smithfield has sued several insurance companies in the dispute, alleging they breached their contract.
The other named plaintiff is Murphy-Brown LLC, which lost five cases of hog nuisance allegations with damages exceeding $550 million with a net of just under $97.2 million due to a state cap on punitive charges, according to a North Carolina Policy Watch blog.
After courts ruled against Smithfield Foods and Murphy-Brown, the two entities sought help from the court. They want a court to declare insurance providers are obligated to defend them.
Insurance companies named in the breach of contract case are ACE American Insurance Co. and Old Republic Insurance Co. Treble damages and legal fees are sought against ACE Property & Casualty Insurance Co., American Guarantee & Liability Insurance Co., Catlin Underwriting Syndicate 2003, Endurance Risk Solutions Assurance Co., Great American Insurance Co. of New York, St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Co., XL Insurance America and XL Specialty Insurance Co.
Smithfield Foods and Murphy Brown want a jury trial and they claim the policies they purchased back in April 2010 should cover the lawsuits they are involved in.
The same thing could happen in Wisconsin. In one Wisconsin county, cattle outnumber the people by a 5 to 1 margin.
On the surface, this does not seem like a big deal in Kewaunee County, in the northeastern part of the state. Scientists, however, beg to differ.
According to a double byline story written by Wisconsin Public Radio and the state’s center for investigative journalism, scientists are trying to figure out how fecal remnants are entering the private wells of residents.
Mark Borchardt of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is quoted in the story, and his research shows that the fecal matter comes from cattle, not humans.
Borchardt told the journalists, “Where we see the strong relationships, the strong linkages, those are with agricultural factors. That would suggest agriculture is primarily responsible for those two contaminants.”
Northeastern Wisconsin is known for its fractured bedrock, a problem because the water infiltrates to the subsurface after it rains or snows. Borchardt’s research says 60 percent of the Kewaunee County wells are contaminated with fecal microbes, which comes from animal waste and septic systems. In all, there are 270 manure pits in the Wisconsin county.
The manure debate also has become a big political issue in the state as more manure is produced with the influx of more cows.
An investigation by the Wisconsin Center of Investigative Journalism said the manure and its components have created a public health hazard for more than 100,000 families.
For a census on the number of pigs in North Carolina and Wisconsin, check out tables 20 to 26 for a rundown on the number of hogs.
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