Fox Litigation Team Wins Right-To-Farm Case

March 8, 2016 – Press Releases

A Fox Rothschild LLP litigation team led by James C. Clark and John J. Haggerty won a complete dismissal of a lawsuit against Nicholas Meat, LLC and Camerer Farms, Inc., in a closely watched right-to-farm case.

The ruling by the Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas is likely to be cited by food processors throughout Pennsylvania as supporting the legitimacy of applying their effluent as a fertilizer.

The lawsuit was filed in 2013 by neighbors living adjacent to 1,200 acres on which Camerer Farms grows corn and soybean with fertilizer drawn from the food processing residual generated at Nicholas Meat’s processing plant.

The plaintiffs asserted claims for private nuisance and negligence, alleging that the odors associated with the farming operations inhibited their ability to use and enjoy their properties. They also claimed the defendants were negligent in their storage, transport and application of the food processing residual.

After nearly three years of discovery, the court granted summary judgment to all defendants on March 4 in an opinion that adopted many of the Fox team’s arguments. Significantly, the court agreed that the conduct at issue constituted “normal agricultural activities” that are protected by Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Farm Act.

The court concluded that the Right-to-Farm Act is a shield that protects against nuisance lawsuits and negligence claims stemming from the same facts.

This decision marks the first time a trial court has applied the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s recent decision in Gilbert v. Synagro Cent., LLC, which upheld the permissibility of applying biosolids as a fertilizer to crops on the grounds that the Right-to-Farm Act affords extraordinarily broad protection to Pennsylvania farmers so long as the activity in question was “normal” and had lawfully been ongoing for more than a year prior to lawsuit.

The Fox team successfully argued that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection closely supervised and regulated both defendants’ conduct and never fined them or sought to cease their farming operations. The court made clear that entering summary judgment in favor of the defendants was “mandated by the public policy of the Commonwealth.”

Clark, a partner with the firm, represents corporations, global investment banks and individuals in matters involving complex commercial litigation, white collar compliance and criminal defense, government and internal investigations, regulatory affairs and insurance disputes. He has represented major financial services institutions in litigation matters, including defense against federal class action lawsuits and internal investigations alleging violations and fraudulent activity.

Haggerty serves as co-chair of the firm’s Litigation Department. Named as one of the leading litigation attorneys in Pennsylvania and Ohio by Chambers USA, he focuses his practice on complex commercial, class action, insurance, product liability, mass tort and software litigation matters for major corporations in state and federal courts throughout the country. He has served as national counsel in tobacco, welding fumes and lead paint litigation.