Eight neighbors of a Sampson County hog farm saw their lawsuit open in federal court Tuesday, a case based on their complaints of horrible smells, late-night noise and other nuisances that make life hard to enjoy.
The case against Murphy-Brown, the state’s largest hog producer, is now in jury selection and expected to last for a month. The lawsuit is one of many facing the pork giant.
In August, a federal jury awarded more than $470 million to six hog farm neighbors in nearby Pender County, a head-turning verdict that was greatly reduced by a state law that caps punitive damages.
This case centers around the Sholar Farm swine confinement facility near Rose Hill, which houses about 7,000 “feeder to finish” hogs, the lawsuit said. The neighbors involved in the suit live approximately half a mile away, U.S. District Judge David Faber told potential jurors Tuesday.
At the time of the August verdict, 26 lawsuits with more than 500 plaintiffs were targeting Murphy-Brown. Consolidated in 2015, the cases are expected to be resolved in appeals or a settlement.
The suit describes hog waste falling from animals at Sholar Farms and through a slatted floor, then dripping and tricking into uncovered holding ponds outside. The waste is then sprayed onto fields around hog sheds, the suit said.
“Murphy-Brown refuses to truck manure away by tanker truck although it has the capacity to do so,” the suit said.
In his introduction to jurors Tuesday, Faber said Murphy-Brown contends its waste follows all regulations and permits, and it is safe for neighbors.
Annjeanette Gillis, the plaintiff for whom the suit is named, lives with her husband and grandson across the road from Sholar Farms. Odors make it harder to breathe and force her to buy bottled water for drinking, the suit said. Flies and smells make barbecues or outdoor family gatherings impossible, the suit said.
“The plaintiffs feel angry, fearful worried and depressed,” the suit said. “They are worried and fearful about their health and their children’s health. They are angry and depressed because Murphy-brown has done nothing to fix the problem.”