There’s been much discussion about House Bill 467, a proposal to protect North Carolina farmers. This legislation has one narrow purpose: to clarify North Carolina law about what type of damages can be awarded in nuisance lawsuits.
In a pending nuisance case, a federal court judge said that North Carolina law is not clear. This bill would clarify the law and, if a farm is found to be a nuisance, allow the plaintiff to recover the lost value of their property.
The idea of providing legal standards about the damages a court can award is nothing new or novel. For instance, North Carolina law already limits the amount of punitive damages a jury can award and places a cap on damages when there is malpractice by a doctor.
That doesn’t sit well with some lawyers. They like to sue farmers for as much money as possible so they file nuisance suits seeking compensation for lost wages, discomfort and other unrelated issues.
This bill doesn’t stop anyone from suing a farm. And if a farm is negligent or harms someone’s health, then lawyers can sue farmers for as much as they want. But that’s more work – negligence cases require the lawyers to prove their claims in court.
As you can imagine, the lawyers don’t want this bill to apply to the nuisance cases they’ve already filed. But North Carolina farmers need the protections offered in this bill and there is clear precedent for passing legislation that applies to pending legal cases. For example, former Speaker Joe Hackney sponsored a bill in 2001 that applied to pending civil actions related to divorce and it passed with overwhelming support.
This debate isn’t about farms that cause a nuisance. It’s about lawyers and money. The proof: When the lawyers who sued North Carolina farmers were asked what type of fixes they wanted, they didn’t ask for any changes that would eliminate the supposed nuisances. They asked only for money.
– CEO Andy Curliss