When a North Carolina federal jury awarded $50 million in compensatory and punitive damages to 10 homeowners over claims a hog farm had contributed significantly to their diminished quality of life, observers immediately labeled the decision as a “landmark” verdict.
However, Bailey Brauer co-founder Clayton Bailey notes that upon closer review, there is the potential that the decision could have little or no lasting impact upon the agribusiness industry. Mr. Bailey explored the case in “’Landmark’ Hog Nuisance Verdict May Leave No Mark at All,” which appeared in the preeminent meat processing industry publication, The National Provisioner.
Mr. Bailey notes that North Carolina state law caps exemplary damages which reduces the amount of the jury’s award significantly. “If the verdict withstands further scrutiny, the total recovery for all 10 plaintiffs, including both actual and punitive damages, would be somewhere around $3.25 million overall. That is a far cry from what the jury awarded,” he wrote.
In addition, Mr. Bailey wrote, there are many issues ripe for exploration in the already announced appeal, including comments made by the judge as testimony concluded.
“According to media accounts, the judge announced, ‘My only comment is that I am tired of looking at that dirty hog,’ referring to a life-size, waste-covered hog model that sat in the courtroom during the trial. If the company chooses, it could argue the judge’s comments prejudiced the jury, which could lead to a new trial altogether.”
Mr. Bailey is respected for his trial and appellate work in complex tort and commercial cases in federal and state appellate courts throughout the nation. His work on both sides of the aisle has earned him significant professional honors and recognition, including being named a “Litigation Star” by Benchmark Litigation (2015-18), and to the Best Lawyers in America (2017-18) and Texas Super Lawyers (2011-17) listings. His work as an appellate lawyer has earned him “Appellate Lawyer of the Week” recognition by The Texas Lawyer for his work as lead appellate counsel in a case before the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The article can be found at https://www.provisioneronline.com/articles/106344-landmark-hog-nuisance-verdict-may-leave-no-mark-at-all.