The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, Illinois, has decided a nuisance suit in favor of a Randolph County hog farmer. The case, Dalzell v. Country View Family Farms, LLC, involved an appeal from the district court that held that a “nuisance” lawsuit brought by various neighbors against a new hog farm were barred by the Indiana Right to Farm Act.
The neighbors argued that they moved into the locality first. The neighbors were already residing in the area when corn and bean farmland was converted into a hog farm in 2007. The court responded: “That argument won’t fly.” The reason is because locality where the hog farm was constructed had been “agricultural” since 1956. “Plaintiffs do not contend that a pig farm would have been a nuisance in the 1950s, before non-farmers moved to vicinity,” the court reasoned.
The neighbors also argued that the farm had been operated “negligently,” because negligence removes the Right to Farm Act’s protections. This did not fly with the court either, because “every farm with 2,800 hogs, no matter how well operated, emits odors that the plaintiffs would find obnoxious.” It was not the perceived “negligent” operation that made the farm objectionable to the neighbors, but its pure existence.
The Dalzell case is unique because it is the first time a federal appellate court has interpreted Indiana’s Right to Farm Act. Farm nuisance cases rarely make it into federal court, since both litigants (complaining neighbor and local farmer) are typically Indiana residents, making jurisdiction more appropriate in the county court where the farm is located. But in this case, the neighbors also sued the swine integrator, Country View Family Farms, LLC, an out-of-state company. The case against the integrator is also resolved by this decision.
Todd Janzen grew up on a Kansas farm and now practices law with Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP, which has offices in Indianapolis and South Bend. He also serves as General Counsel to the Indiana Dairy Producers and writes regularly about agricultural law topics on his blog: JanzenAgLaw.com. This article is provided for informational purposes only. Readers should consult legal counsel for advice applicable to specific circumstances.
Submitted by: Todd J. Janzen, Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP