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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Environment - Right to Farm Act prevails in Randolph County lawsuits

With much fanfare lawsuits were initiated in 2009 by "three high-powered trial lawyers who vow[ed] to make Randolph County 'ground zero' in a courtroom food fight over how Indiana produces pork and milk." That quote is from a long Dec. 23, 2009 Muncie Star-Press story by Seth Slabaugh headed "Lawyers target pig, dairy farms: Attorneys seek justice for neighbors allegedly injured by pork and dairy producers" and the ILB's quotes are worth rereading.

Yesterday the ILB learned that on July 10, Delaware County Judge Marianne L. Vorhees, appointed Special Randolph Circuit Judge for the case, ruled on a motion for summary judgment filed by defendants Maxwell Farms in one of the four cases, granting the motion (I understand there are three other similar rulings, but haven't seen them yet).

Here is the 8-page opinion in Armstrong v. Maxwell Farms.

Plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of Indiana's "Right to Farm" act. The Court concluded:

43. For all these reasons, the Court finds Plaintiffs have not met their burden to overcome the presumption of constitutionality. The Indiana Right to Farm Act is constitutional.

44. The Indiana Right to Farm Act applies in this case and bars Plaintiffs' Nuisance claims.

45. Plaintiffs' nuisance action can proceed only if they produce evidence that Defendants were negligent, and Defendants' negligence was the resulting cause of the odors. Plaintiffs admitted they have no such evidence.

46. Plaintiffs have asked for additional time to conduct discovery to develop the negligence claims. As the findings above show, Plaintiffs have had ample time to conduct discovery. Plaintiffs have had more than enough time to retain an expert, who could have presented an affidavit to the Court Cleating a fact issue as to Defendants' negligence.

47. Defendants are seeking summary judgment as to the nuisance and negligence claims asserted in the Amended Complaint.

48. Plaintiffs have nOI resisted the summary judgment motion as to the negligence claim, other than asserting (as in the Nuisance Claim) that they have presented evidence showing negligence. The Court has found Plaintiffs have no evidence of negligence in this case.

49. For all the above reasons, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is well taken and should be granted.

50. This is a final and appealable judgment; no issues or claims remain pending.

The ILB may add more information to this post later.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 16, 2014 09:44 AM
Posted to Environment | Ind. Trial Ct. Decisions