A bill introduced in the Oklahoma legislature would limit damages in nuisance lawsuits against farmers.  The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill by an 8-3 vote. House bill 2373 would cap non economic damages, also called “pain and suffering” damages to $250,000 or three times the amount awarded for compensatory damages, or whichever amount is greater. The measure is now headed to the Senate Floor.

Senator Julie Daniels, Republican member of the Oklahoma State Senate, said the bill is in response to lawsuits filed in North Carolina against Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, which was sued five times for similar nuisances as a result of waste generated by the company’s hogs.

Daniels said smaller growing operations that raise animals for larger companies can face closure when those companies are hit with excessive damage awards.  “This makes sure punitive damages will be a realistic number so agricultural operations can continue throughout Oklahoma,” Daniels said.

Senator Ron Sharp, Republican member of the Oklahoma State Senate,  said city dwellers moving to the country may not realize what is normal in agricultural operations, prompting lawsuits over odor, noise or dust that is typical.  “I think that this issue here is clearly an urban versus rural issue where we must have certain realities that our food supply must come from our farmers. We thank our farmers each day when we pray,” Sharp said.