Michael Merrill of Batavia and Karen Jo Frescoln of Libertyville, were part of a group of 70 people who filed nuisance lawsuits against Valley View Swine which runs two pork confinements for JBS Live Pork in Wapello County.
The first lawsuit was dismissed because they had not exhausted their mediation option. Merrill and Frescoln filed a second lawsuit, but then voluntarily dismissed it. The district court ordered them each to pay around $9,200 in costs to Valley View Swine. The two argued they should not have to pay any costs because there was no judgment from the court.
The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the lower court ruling that the dismissals showed this was a “losing cause of action” and the claims were frivolous.
The ruling says: “We conclude the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding the claims in question frivolous, even though reasonable people could see the matter differently. Merrill’s home was located 2.36 and 3.69 miles respectively from the CAFOs at issue. His evidence of harm was marginal. Merrill could identify only two times over a six month time period when his “odor calendar” mentioned odor; those are also the only two occasions when odor actually affected his activities.”
The district court found that Merrill “did not produce evidence of any material impact that his infrequent detection of generalized swine odor imposed on his actual use of his property.” The district court also faulted Merrill for having no specific basis for concluding the odors even came from Site 1 and Site 2.
The Supreme Court ruling says Frescoln “described events that a jury could find to be significant hardships and an unreasonable interference. Unfortunately, she lacked the legally required connection to the property. The house in question was owned by her daughter and son-in-law; the land was owned by her husband. Frescoln retained an interest in some utility buildings, but the record does not suggest the CAFOs had any impact on the use or operation of those buildings. Frescoln also spent considerable time on the property as a babysitter for her grandchildren, but she did not reside there.”
See the complete ruling here: Swine Valley ruling PDF