On February 8, 2010, this space wrote about a hog farm lawsuit in Missouri and how the same plaintiffs had already sued the same company, Premium Standard Farms (PSF) in 1999 and received $100,000 each because of hog odor. Their lawyer, one Charlie Speer, is on a roll with hog farm lawsuits and stated that he has hundreds of them pending in Missouri. Based on one of his previously settled cases, he considers $1.2 million to be the standard of what he expects from his pending suits.
The plaintiffs are themselves farmers and their current second suit claims that PSF and similar farming companies should do more than comply with all the state environmental regulations – they should somehow meet special standards for the benefit of their neighbors.
On Thursday last week, the jury in this suit awarded $11 million to these plaintiffs.
Premium Standard Farms the Biggest Local Employer
While the lawsuit had been proceeding, 1,500 people had filled a school gymnasium for a meeting about the issue of hog farm odor. Some cannot smell anything. Others say the smell makes them feel sick. Water pollution in the area is attributed to local cattle farms rather than the hog farms. PSF supporters accuse the plaintiffs of filing frivolous lawsuits.
PSF began operating in northern Missouri in the 1990’s, opening large farms, and it now produces 1.8 million hogs annually. During the 1980’s, many farmers had filed for bankruptcy and sold their farms. The local economy was poor until PSF brought in new money and stability. Their taxes help pay for roads and schools and the employment they create has greatly improved the economy of seven Missouri counties.
PSF May Leave Missouri
Now PSF is considering leaving Missouri and people fear another economic collapse. In the 1990’s, there was a consent decree and PSF was given 11 years, until 2004, to reduce hog odors. They installed biofilters on the barns to remove odors but apparently that was not effective enough. They were given an extension until July 2010 and have been working on new technology called “scrapers”.
Now PSF has asked the Missouri Attorney General, Chris Koster, to extend the deadline again while they test the scrapers.
- “There are jobs at stake up there,” Koster said. “My job is to balance interests of the consent decree and the economic impact on the communities.
PSF has also worked on groundwater runoff and several lagoons. ““It’s important to give credit where credit is due,” said Koster.
An attorney for PSF, Jean Paul Bradshaw, says the company does not believe there is any serious odor problem.
- “All our testing shows there is not an odor from the barns,” Bradshaw said. “The company believes we are solving a problem that doesn’t exist, but we are working on it.”
In response to queries as to whether PSF would really leave Missouri, Bradshaw said, “The hog business isn’t good right now. A lot of states would like to have those jobs.”
- “Animals smell,” said Guernsey, a Missouri dairy farmer. “There are times that it smells worse than others, but it isn’t as bad as people say it is.”
However, the jury in this case decided that the plaintiffs deserved a generous award. No doubt it will be appealed.
Premises Liability law requires that property owners keep their premises safe for visitors and lawful users. When a defect on someone’s premises exists in the air rather than in buildings or on the ground, it seems to make for more controversy and claims tend to be more subjective.
If you have been hurt by another person’s negligence, you can learn more about your legal rights and options by contacting us for a free case evaluation.