A Polk County jury rejected the claims in a nuisance lawsuit Wednesday against the owners of a 300-head hog facility in Madison County in what is being called a big victory for pork producers. Attorney Brian Rickert represented Tim and Glenna Camp in the case in which Wayne and Barbara Tetzlaff sought damages for health problems that they claim were caused by smelling hog manure spread in the area.
Rickert says the victory by his clients includes several firsts in these types of cases. "As far as I can tell, this is the first nuisance lawsuit against a pork producer where a jury returned a verdict where there were no damages," Rickert says, "in most cases involving hog confinement buildings or manure spreading, the jury finds there is some damages to the neighbors and awards something. But this is the first one that I can tell where they awarded nothing."
Rickert says his case relied on a law passed just for these cases. He says this was the first in Iowa where a pork producer was allowed to rely on the statutory nuisance defense in the Iowa code. Rickert says that defense was found to be unconstitutional in other cases, but the Camps were able to use it. The statutory nuisance defense allows a producer to defend themselves by showing they followed all the state regulations regarding their facility. Rickert says the case also tested another argument involving pork producers.
Rickert says it’s the first case to make it to the jury, where the jury had to decided if smelling hog manure caused brain damage, as that was one of the large medial claims made by the plaintiffs in the case. Rickert says the Camps had operated their farm since purchasing the property in 1992, and the Tetzlaffs moved to the rural Winterset area in 1999.
Rickert says the Tetzlaffs were a family that had lived in the city all their life and then deiced they wanted to move to the country. He was when the Camps started spreading manure, the Telaffs filed suit. "They simply did not understand how farming works and that was one of the benefits of having the jury decide this case, as they said the Camps did not do anything wrong," Rickert says.
The statutory nuisance defense allowed the Camps to counter-sue for the cost of defending themselves. The Tetzlaffs agreed to settle the counter suit, and Rickert says he can’t says anything about the settlement, other than there will not be an appeal of the case. A lawyer for the Tetzlaffs did not return Radio Iowa’s call seeking comment on the case.