Missouri-based agro-business giant, Premium Standard Farms was accused of careless and illegal disposal of waste products from their hog farming operation which degraded the land and air around the facilities. Local farmers, whose lives and livelihoods had been handicapped by the odors sued the company.
Premium Standard Farms was a Berlin, Missouri factory farm which housed about 80,000 hogs at any one time and processed roughly 200,000 hogs per year. This is in comparison to the average hog farm which houses only about 5,000 or fewer animals.
In factory farming such as PSF operated, hogs are raised from about 60 pounds to around 260 pounds, remaining in a single pen for its entire life before being sent to slaughter. Though hog farming is known to produce a number of bothersome odors, even local small farm owners in the factory farm vicinity were overwhelmed by the mass of hog bodies and waste which was often mismanaged and improperly disposed of. Odors emanating from hog wastes include enormous quantities of ammonia, methane and hydrogen sulfide which can often be detected for miles.
The company, owned by Smithfield Foods, had already been ordered to clean up its act by the state Attorney General but had failed to do so. Seeger Weiss LLP was instrumental in helping 15 small farm owners successfully sue the large conglomerate.
Premium Standard Farms
On March 4, 2010, Seeger Weiss won the hard-fought case against giant agro-business Premium Standard Farms, when a Missouri jury awarded $11.05 million to the 15 neighboring owners of small farms. Co-founder Stephen A. Weiss has led the charge against these giant factory farms, whose careless and illegal disposal of waste products degrades the air and land around them.
As co-lead counsel for the farmers’ whose lives and livelihoods had been handicapped by overpowering hog odors, Mr. Weiss proved to the jury, seated in Jackson County, Missouri, that Premium Standard Farms had failed to sufficiently address the problem in the 11 years since the Missouri Attorney General issued an order to do so.
This verdict is the largest monetary award against a hog farm in an odor nuisance case. Read more here.
During the past several years, Seeger Weiss LLP has earned a strong track record in successful actions against several of the nation’s largest industrial hog farm operators and other agro-business giants.
These cases, pending in several jurisdictions throughout the country, were brought on behalf of public citizens, riparian property owners, and other residents in the vicinity of factory farms who have suffered from environmental and atmospheric degradation caused by the illegal discharge of hazardous and non-hazardous solid wastes, liquid and gaseous wastes contained in the enormous quantities of animal feces and other wastes produced by the industrial farmer defendants.
Selected Media Coverage of Hog Farm Waste Lawsuits
“You can’t simply come into these environs, decimate the land, and expect not to be held accountable,” said plaintiffs counsel Stephen Weiss of Seeger Weiss. ”We don’t want to put them out of business. We just want them to reform how they do business.” Weiss told us residents and Premium Standard began negotiating a global settlement after the company won a defense verdict in a 2007 trial, but those talks ended when a memo from the company was leaked to the Kansas City Star. “That chilled the discussions for reasons I don’t understand,” Weiss told us. “[Premium Standard’s parent company] chose to walk away from any global settlement.”
“These corporations have chosen to invade traditional family farming communities and construct industrial operations that simply fail to respect the community and the land,” said Stephen A. Weiss, a New York attorney who represented the families.
Kansas City Star:
“Several are fifth-generation farming families. They testified that the odors and swarms of flies sometimes drove them indoors. The situation made it hard to invite people over for barbecues or picnics, they said. One woman who sold Mary Kay cosmetics said she couldn’t have parties at her house. The daughter of one couple testified she couldn’t play outside as a child when the odors rolled in.”