Last week a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, comprised of Judge G. Steven Agee, Judge Stephanie D. Thacker and Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, heard oral argument in Smithfield Foods' appeal of the first of a series of trials in the North Carolina hog farm nuisance litigation. The company says these lawsuits threaten animal agriculture, rural North Carolina's economy and the thousands of hard-working farmers who own and operate family farms in full compliance with federal, state and local regulations.
"This suit is the tip of a spear aimed at North Carolina's agricultural economy," the company's appeal brief says. "… A great deal depends on the outcome of these coordinated lawsuits, including the livelihoods of many in eastern North Carolina's predominantly agricultural communities."
In the court filings, Smithfield's legal team outlined seven critical errors made at trial related to judicial process and the application of law that improperly influenced the outcome of the case under appeal, as well as the four subsequent trials, fostering more runaway verdicts. Full audio of Friday's oral argument will be available in the coming days.
"After years of litigation, we are pleased to have the opportunity to bring our arguments before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. We are hopeful that the judges will remedy the errors of the trial court and protect the rights of an independent family farm that has been operating for 25 years without any regulatory violation and without neighbor complaints," says Keira Lombardo, executive vice president, corporate affairs and compliance, Smithfield Foods.