Regarding the April 2 Point of View “Our rural neighbors deserve better”: We raise hogs on my family farm. We’re used to struggling with too much rain, too little rain and all kinds of natural disasters.
Now our problem is lawyers. To be clear, I’m not talking about local lawyers. I’m talking about out-of-state lawyers who descended on our part of North Carolina four years ago.
You recently published a Point of View by two law professors. Not surprisingly, the law professors took the lawyers’ side. I’d like tell you the farmers’ side.
Those out-of-state lawyers saw hog farms as ripe targets for an unusual type of lawsuit. So they came here and started going door to door, signing up clients for their lawsuits. They said: We’ll bring the suits, we’ll pay the bills, and, if we win, we’ll split the money with you.
Eventually, a judge kicked those lawyers off the cases. The judge said they had violated ethics rules by the way they’d recruited clients. Then new attorneys took over the cases.
Now, at times, a neighbor may have a legitimate complaint about a farm nuisance – like smell or dust, for example. When a neighbor comes to us with a problem like that, we fix it. But these lawsuits didn’t ask farmers to fix the alleged nuisances. They just asked for money. Which led the federal judge hearing the case to say that North Carolina’s nuisance law isn’t clear on damages.
Which is why House Bill 467 matters. It clarifies the law by tying compensatory damages in these unusual lawsuits to the market value of the plaintiff’s property. For example, if a farm nuisance reduces the value of someone’s home by $25,000, they can be awarded up to $25,000. That’s fair to both neighbors and farmers.
Our farms shouldn’t be used as piggy banks for lawyers.
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the POV.