Judge rules against residents in lawsuits over hog smell

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A judge has ruled state law protects four large hog farms from lawsuits filed by residents of an eastern Indiana county who complained about waste and foul smells from their operations.

Special Judge Marianne Vorhees found that Indiana's right-to-farm law is constitutional and the residents didn't present evidence needed to allow the lawsuits to proceed against the Randolph County farms run by Goldsboro, North Carolina-based Maxwell Foods, The Star Press of Muncie reported.

The four farms all started hog production in 2007 or 2008 — and the county between Muncie and the Indiana-Ohio state line has seen its number of hogs more than triple in five years to nearly 178,000 in 2012, according the to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Rich Hailey, an attorney representing those who filed the lawsuits, said an appeal of the judge's ruling is likely.

"These are industrialized facilities. They are not family farms," he said. "The uncontroverted truth is all the plaintiffs were living in those areas first (before the hog operations). Many had owned these properties for generations. These are people who grew up in the country. One day they looked out and had 4,000 to 8,000 hogs putting out 3 million gallons of untreated waste."

The lawsuits accuse Maxwell and other defendants of allowing hog waste to accumulate and "noxious fumes and odors to discharge from and be sensed beyond the boundaries of their property."

Indiana's right-to-farm law protects the rights of farmers to use "generally accepted" practices, including "the use of ever-changing technology."

Vorhees ruled that the law covered Maxwell Foods since the properties had been used continuously as farms since at least the 1950s and that a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."

Vorhees called the suit can proceed, "only if they produce evidence that defendants were negligent, and defendants' negligence was the cause of the odors," Vorhees wrote, adding that the residents admitted they had no such evidence.

Joe Baldwin, operations manager for Maxwell Farms, said its operations are common among Midwestern hog producers.

"We find it unfortunate that a few individuals have attempted to discredit our industry despite the fact that Maxwell Farms maintains an excellent environmental record in the state of Indiana and establishes high standards that our contract grower families are expected to meet," he said in a statement.


  • Hogs = Corn?
    "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Freedom From Religion Foundation: If you really want to be free from religion, don't go to the Christmas Play or the Christmas Pageant or the Christmas Parade. Anything with "Christ" or Saint...fill in the blank...would be off limits to you. Then leave the rest of us ALONE!

  2. So the prosecutor made an error and the defendants get a full remedy. Just one short paragraph to undo the harm of the erroneous prosecution. Wow. Just wow.

  3. Wake up!!!! Lawyers are useless!! it makes no difference in any way to speak about what is important!! Just dont tell your plans to the "SELFRIGHTEOUS ARROGANT JERKS!! WHO THINK THEY ARE BETTER THAN ANOTHER MAN/WOMAN!!!!!!

  4. Looks like you dont understand Democracy, Civilized Society does not cut a thiefs hands off, becouse now he cant steal or write or feed himself or learn !!! You deserve to be over punished, Many men are mistreated hurt in many ways before a breaking point happens! grow up !!!

  5. It was all that kept us from tyranny. So sad that so few among the elite cared enough to guard the sacred trust. Nobody has a more sacred obligation to obey the law than those who make the law. Sophocles No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we ask him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor. Theodore Roosevelt That was the ideal ... here is the Hoosier reality: The King can do no wrong. Legal maxim From the Latin 'Rex non potest peccare'. When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal. Richard Nixon