Missouri Court of Appeals Affirms $11 Million Factory Farm Verdict
Seeger Weiss LLP is pleased to report that the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western Division, today affirmed a landmark jury verdict obtained by the firm on behalf of fifteen family farmers forced to endure years of life-degrading stench put up by neighboring factory hog farm operator, Premium Standard Farms. On March 4, 2010, a jury sitting in Kansas City, Missouri rendered an $11,050,000 judgment against PSF and its former corporate affiliate, ContiGroup Companies, for odor nuisances committed by the defendants’ northern Missouri factory farm. The verdict was the largest known of its kind nationwide against a factory hog operator.
Seeger Weiss founding partner Stephen A. Weiss, along with co-trial counsel Richard H. Middleton, Jr. of Savannah, GA, and Charles F. Speer of Kansas City, MO, demonstrated to the Jackson County, MO jury that the waste odor produced by approximately 200,000 hogs grown annually at PSF’s factory farm constituted unlawful interference with the use and enjoyment of the neighboring claimants’ properties located in Gentry County, MO. The verdict followed a similar one in September 2006 whereby six neighbors of PSF’s Scott-Colby Farm in Daviess County, MO were awarded $4.5 million.
Following PSF’s appeal of this latest verdict, the Missouri Court of Appeals issued an unanimous opinion on March 29, 2011, denying the appeal in all respects. In upholding the award, the appellate court noted that “PSF’s hog operations emitted numerous gases and chemicals,” and that the plaintiffs “experienced great distress as a result of the odor.” Although the appellate decision was welcome news to the fifteen individuals who have been embattled in litigation with PSF and ContiGroup for over a decade, there remain some 260 additional individuals represented by Seeger Weiss who await their day in court. Said Mr. Weiss: “Most of these folks have lived on their land during their entire lifetime, and some of the properties have been in the family for a century or more. I and my co-counsel will not relent until the last of our clients have been vindicated.”
[***Update: In 2012, following multiple jury trials in Kansas City and northern Missouri, PSF and ContiGroup entered into a confidential global settlement resolving the claims of Seeger Weiss’s remaining 300+ clients in this decade-long odor nuisance litigation.]