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COA: Indiana hog farmer’s suit against N.C. operation to proceed

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A North Carolina commercial hog operation must face an Indiana farmer’s claims of nuisance, negligence and trespass after an intentionally introduced, highly contagious virus infected his neighboring herd, causing damages in excess of $275,000.

The Indiana Court of Appeals on Thursday rejected an appeal of the Tippecanoe Circuit Court’s refusal to grant summary judgment in favor of the North Carolina operation, TDM Farms.

In TDM Farms, Inc. of North Carolina and Dale Johnson v. Wilhoite Family Farm, LLC  No. 79A02-1101-PL-33, the COA dismissed TDM’s arguments that Wilhoite Family Farm’s claims were either preempted by the federal Virus-Serum Toxin Act, 21 U.S.C. Sections 151-159, or they are barred by Indiana’s Right to Farm Act, Ind. Code 32-30-6-9.

TDM had contracted to use Dale Johnson’s farm to raise weaned female pigs in a “gilt acclimation facility.” The company used a serum to inoculate its pigs en masse against a highly contagious virus, Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome.

Alan Wilhoite, owner of the Wilhoite farm, said his herd three-quarters of a mile away became infected a short time later with a strain of PRRS that was a 99 percent genetic match to the strain from the hogs TDM inoculated with the serum.

Wilhoite farm argued that it was never notified about the inoculation program, and an outbreak of the disease requires “biosecurity” measures be taken to quarantine animals or otherwise protect them from infection.

“It is the custom and practice in the hog industry, for both operators and their veterinary consultants, to alert neighboring or potentially affected operations of PRRS,” Wilhoite’s suit says.

 The appeals court found no reason the trial court should have granted summary judgment in favor of TDM, and that because the claim is not covered by federal law, the suit is properly in state court.

The court also rejected TDM’s claims that the suit would be barred by the state’s Right to Farm Act.

“The Act, by its plain terms, was intended to prohibit nonagricultural land uses from being the basis of a nuisance suit against an established agricultural operation. I.C. § 32-30-6-9(b). Our case law has consistently applied the law according to the General Assembly’s plainly stated intent, and we will not reconsider those conclusions for TDM’s sake,” Judge Edward Najam wrote in the unanimous opinion.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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