More than eight months later, still no movement in hog lawsuits


Alan Wooten, Bladen Journal (NC)

October 12, 2020


More than eight months after a 90-day window for decision, and about six-plus months since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered most of America, there is no immediate end in sight for lawsuits involving hog farms in southeastern North Carolina.


Judgment at the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, is pending involving the plaintiffs, Smithfield Foods’ subsidiary Murphy-Brown and Bladen County farmers. The court’s calendar does have arguments in other cases scheduled to be heard remotely this week, and Oct. 23 through Nov. 2.


Five cases have been decided with juries awarding $549,772,400 in damages. The punitive damage law reduces that amount, including compensatory amounts, to $97.9 million.


“Joyce McKiver, et. al. v. Murphy-Brown, LLC” was a compilation of all five cases for which arguments were heard Jan. 31 from counsel representing both plaintiffs and Murphy-Brown, the subsidiary of Smithfield Foods named as defendant in all five cases heard thus far.


Originally, there were 90 days until a decision would be rendered. On March 12, the impact of the virus began to stop events from coast to coast, with New York City the U.S. epicenter. Governors across the country began to issue orders that prevented regular day-to-day business and entertainment, and courts were no different.


A session of the appellate court planned in early May was scrapped.


The cases include the Billy Kinlaw farm in White Oak, two farms in a case based in Pender County connected to White Lake commissioner and businessman Dean Hilton, two cases involving Joey Carter in Duplin County, and a case involving the Sholar Farm from Sampson County.


Michael Kaeske is the Texas lawyer representing plaintiffs in these and 21 more cases yet to be heard. Plaintiffs, carefully selected over years by Kaeske, number more than 500.


The McKiver case...