Type: Law Bulletins
Date: 06/07/2011

Farmers Beware: Jury Finds Egg Farm to be a Nuisance

Olivera Egg Ranch (“Olivera”), an egg farm in French Camp, California, will pay $500,000 in nuisance damages awarded by a jury to eight nearby residents (the “Neighbors”).  The Neighbors complained of Olivera’s improper waste disposal and repulsive odors emanating from the 130,000+ pounds of manure generated by Olivera’s chickens each day.  Olivera operated a 13 acre lagoon to dispose of and process its manure.

The massive amounts of manure allegedly created revolting smells and released ammonia and other toxic fumes.  The complaint asserted nuisance claims in addition to claims under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) and the Emergency Planning and Right- to-Know Act.  Specifically, the Neighbors complained that the ammonia releases caused flu-like symptoms, eye irritation, sinus problems, and other physical manifestations.

A jury awarded damages for the Neighbors’ loss of property enjoyment and physical suffering after the Neighbors and the Humane Society of the United States (“HSUS”) sued Olivera.  The district court judge dismissed the federal claims allowing the jury to address only the nuisance claim.  However, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (the “Control District”) commenced an action against Olivera for operating without a clean air permit.  The Control District’s enforcement action is still pending.

Significantly, the HSUS is targeting other egg farms and concentrated animal feeding operations (“CAFOs”) that do not comply with local and federal environmental regulations.  As demonstrated by the Neighbors’ lawsuit, operations that do not comply with applicable regulations may be exposed to substantial liability.

For more information on defending nuisance claims asserted against CAFOs, please contact Frank Deveau or any member of Taft’s Environmental Practice Group.

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