The April 27, 2018, edition of Politico’s The Morning Agriculture column examined the $50 million federal jury award in the bellwether trial against a Bladen County, N.C., commercial hog operation. Residents of a residential development had filed suit claiming conditions at nearby Kinlaw Farm contributed to their diminished quality of life.
Bailey Brauer co-founder Clayton Bailey told Politico that the verdict could result in an uptick in similar nuisance cases against industrial operations.
“Somebody will look at this and say: ‘These folks won, let’s see how they did it,’ and they’ll try to piggyback and bring one somewhere else,” said Mr. Bailey, who was not involved in this case. “It could be against Smithfield; it could be against someone else; it could be in a different industry — it could be in the cattle industry.”
Kinlaw Farm operates under contract with Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods. Murphy-Brown was sued in 2014 by approximately 500 residents for what they claim was the company’s “refusal” to invest in costly alternative waste-disposal methods that would have minimized odors emanating from Kinlaw Farm. The Bladen County trial was seen as a bellwether for subsequent trial.
Morning Agriculture came back to Mr. Bailey when they revisited the dispute on July 18 to explore an emergency appeal of a gag order currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. The order was unexpected, as it was crafted without a request from either side, and Smithfield has argued that the order is a violation of the first Amendment.
Mr. Bailey suggested that the appeal could play into Smithfield’s long-term plan to win at the appellate level even if juries continue to return verdicts against the company.
Mr. Bailey is respected for his trial and appellate work in complex tort and commercial cases in federal and state appellate courts throughout the nation. His work on both sides of the aisle has earned him significant professional honors and recognition, including being named a “Litigation Star” by Benchmark Litigation (2015-18), and to the Best Lawyers in America (2017-18) and Texas Super Lawyers (2011-17) listings. His work as an appellate lawyer has earned him “Appellate Lawyer of the Week” recognition by The Texas Lawyer for his work as lead appellate counsel in a case before the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.