Earlier this week, the Missouri House approved a farm lawsuit bill limiting lawsuits based on odors and environmental damages. The bill alters several lawsuit regulations in the state, but of particular importance is its transformation of nuisance lawsuits. Currently, nuisance lawsuit awards are temporary, meaning that multiple lawsuits can be brought if a farming operation’s practices are not changed. This new law would make awards permanent, meaning that residents could be compensated for lost value in real-estate and possible medical damages, but could not sue more than once.
Major farming companies say this bill is necessary for them to remain in business in Missouri. Premium Standard Farms, one of the state’s largest hog farms and a frequent target of nuisance lawsuits, claimed that it would have to leave the state, taking thousands of jobs with it, if it kept being sued. Rural advocated, on the other hand, claim that the bill is sacrificing the interests of rural Missourians in order to appease major agribusinesses.
A more restrictive bill originally passed both the Missouri House and Senate, only to be vetoed by Governor Jay Nixon. The original bill not only limited nuisance lawsuits, but block punitive damages in agricultural lawsuits, something the Governor criticized as “turn[ing] back decades of Missouri common law.” The current bill represents a compromise between the Governor and the legislature, limiting the number of lawsuits without forbidding punitive damages for individuals who have been hurt by agricultural businesses. Once the bill passes the Senate it will return to the Governor’s desk where he is expected to sign it.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer