DUPLIN COUNTY, NC (WITN) State Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler, joined other state and local officials and community members in Duplin County Tuesday to show their support for hog farmers throughout eastern North Carolina who are facing nuisance lawsuits from their neighbors.
Joey Carter is the owner of the approximately 4,700 hog farm where folks gathered. A couple weeks ago a North Carolina jury awarded more than $25 million to an eastern Carolina couple as a result of lawsuit against his farm.
Those at the press conference say many of these complaints didn't even originate with the neighbors themselves. They say a team of lawyers crafted a class-action lawsuit against Smithfield Foods for refusal to update certain equipment and practices, leaving the Carter family as the ones paying the price.
Troxler says, "I think it's been evident in these first two trials that they don't understand. They think that they're suing a big company, but this family exemplifies what they're suing. And in fact, if they don't get hogs back on this farm because of this lawsuit they're probably going to lose the farm."
Because of state laws that cap punitive damages, the $25 million will likely be reduced to a little over half-a-million dollars.
Local officials and legislators say this isn't going to be a quick battle. They called this a war that is going to take years to fight and say, in the meantime, these farmers are unable to fully operate.
Smithfield Foods has already announced plans to appeal this ruling, as well as a first ruling back in April.