A three-person panel of appellate judges has heard arguments in Smithfield Foods’ appeal of a $3.25 million jury award for neighbors of a large North Carolina hog farm contracted to the processor, and now the parties will wait weeks or months for a decision.
The Fourth Circuit court of appeals in Richmond heard the case in presentations by both sides. Smithfield’s attorney reportedly argued that the nuisance claims related to the odor and health hazards were exaggerated and that the jury verdict was excessive. The jury initially awarded $50 million in punitive damages on top of $750,000 in actual damages, a total that was knocked down to $2.5 million due to a state cap on jury awards. But one of the judges scolded Smithfield’s representatives for seeming to discount the neighbors’ distress because of their “less fortunate” economic circumstances.
A decision is not expected in the case for several months.