The North American Meat Institute, along with the National Association of Manufacturers, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Turkey Federation and the National Chicken Council, today called on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to overturn an award of damages for nuisance, including punitive damages, in a case in which a hog producer was operating in compliance with comprehensive environmental regulations. In an amicus curiae brief filed in McKiver v. Murphy Brown LLC, the Meat Institute and other amici argue that the district court wrongly allowed a company in compliance with environmental regulations to be found liable in nuisance and for punitive damages.
“That a court would allow punitive damages to be awarded against a company operating within its permit puts not only agricultural operations at risk, it puts any industry in North Carolina at risk for nuisance liability and punitive damages,” said Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts.
The brief highlights the fact that nuisance actions like this one should be governed by environmental statutes and regulations and not by notoriously ill-defined standards that rely on judges’ and juries’ case-by-case intuitions.
The brief also points out the purpose of punitive damages is to “punish wrongful conduct and deter its repetition” and companies that comply with environmental and other regulations should not be punished for operating in compliance with the regulatory framework.