(Raleigh, N.C.) – Amendments to the “Right to Farm” Act adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2017 (HB 467) and 2018 (SB 711) violate the state constitution by restricting fundamental property rights of residents and by giving a “private” benefit to industrial agricultural operations, and the hog industry in particular, license to commit nuisance and interfere with its neighbors use and enjoyment of their property, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and local advocates said in a brief filed in Wake County Superior Court yesterday.
HB 467 eliminates all compensatory damages for nuisance except for diminution of property value; its sister legislation SB 711 requires that plaintiffs live within one-half mile of the source of the nuisance, that any nuisance claims be filed within one year of the start of the offending operation and other onerous stipulations. SB 711 also significantly limits punitive damages, and extends its nuisance protections even to negligent or improperly operated facilities.
“The legislative record and debate about these bills made clear they were introduced to interfere with ongoing litigation against the country’s largest hog production corporation,” said Mark Dorosin, managing attorney for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Right Under Law. “The measures were a back-to-back attack on the rights of North Carolinians for the private benefit of the hog industry, severely limiting the ability of neighbors harmed by this industry even to bring a nuisance action.”
“HB467 and SB 711 were drafted with to undermine ongoing nuisance litigation and directly benefit the swine industry in North Carolina,” said Naeema Muhammad, Organizing Director of the N.C. Environmental Justice Network. “The legislation clearly violates the constitutional rights of residents that are impacted by the smells, noise, flies, and air and water pollution caused by the operations, and North Carolinians have a right to seek legal redress for these impacts on their emotional and physical health, and their quality of life. Lawmakers who supported this bill violated the trust of the people to enrich and protect big business.”
HB 467 and SB 711 significantly limit liability in nuisance cases for agricultural and forestry operations, including industrial hog and poultry operations. Passed in reaction to and designed to impact ongoing nuisance litigation, these laws affect no other potential nuisance litigant, plaintiff or defendant.
Read the brief here.