On August 3, a North Carolina jury awarded $473.5 million to plaintiffs in the third nuisance lawsuit filed against Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer.   This is the largest award yet in the 26 lawsuits that have been brought against Murphy-Brown.

The lead attorney for hog farm neighbors suing Smithfield Foods asked the jury for $2 million to $4 million per plaintiff in compensatory damages as closing arguments wrapped and the case went to the jury.

Punitive damages in civil lawsuits, which are meant to punish the defendant, are capped in North Carolina., Compensatory damages, which are meant to compensate plaintiffs for the harm they have suffered are not capped in the state, while punitive damages are limited to three times the compensatory damages awarded.

Since the first trial’s conclusion in April, two other juries have reached the same verdict, with the juries agreeing the farms unfairly interfered with the neighbor’s ability to enjoy their homes and property, despite the fact that many of the plaintiffs have lived for decades near hog farms without complaint.

In the first trial on April 26, a North Carolina jury concluded  that Murphy-Brown LCC must pay its neighbors $50 million in damages as a result of the nuisance lawsuits.  The jury in that first trial ruled that each plaintiff should be awarded $75,000 in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damage.  In the second trial, the jury award was $25 million.

In this latest and third case, the jury awarded $3 million to $5 million in compensatory damages and $75 million in punitive damages to each of the case’s six complainants.

In June, the North Carolina Legislature approved the Farm Act of 2018, which sets a deadline for bringing such suits of one year from an operation’s start and allows punitive damages only against a farm that had a criminal charge or code violation.  State lawmakers overrode Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of that measure.

The state General Assembly voted 74 to 45 on Wednesday to override Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of the North Carolina Farm Act. On Tuesday, North Carolina’s state Senate also voted to override the veto.

Under the new law, a nuisance lawsuit cannot be filed unless it is done within a year of the establishment of the agricultural operation on which the complaint is focused or within a year of “fundamental change” in the operation. “Fundamental change” does not include changes in ownership, technology, product or size of the operation.

Smithfield has announced its plan to appeal.  In a statement Smithfield called the lawsuits an “outrageous” attack on animal agriculture.”  Smithfield executives have also said that costs associated with jury verdicts could prompt the company to move its hog production elsewhere.  North Carolina is currently the second-largest state for hog production, following Iowa.