Iowa Supreme Court Considers Law That Shields CAFOs From Lawsuits

Stephen Gruber-Miller reported yesterday at The Des Moines Register Online that, “Should the Iowa Supreme Court declare unconstitutional a law that shields large animal feeding operations from lawsuits?

“That’s the question the justices heard Monday night during oral arguments in Honomichl v. Valley View Swine. Its answer is likely to have an impact on the number and type of nuisance lawsuits brought by rural residents against the operators of concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

“A pair of hog confinements built in Wapello County in 2013 prompted this lawsuit. But the broader question is who can sue, and why.”

The Register article stated that, “Iowa Code 657.11 shields CAFO operators from lawsuits for nuisance resulting in a loss of enjoyment of the plaintiffs’ property unless one of two conditions applies: The operators are either violating state or federal law, or they are ‘unreasonably and for substantial periods of time (interfering) with the person’s comfortable use and enjoyment’ of their property and failing to comply with accepted industry best practices.

“Landowners can still sue for damages if they can prove they suffered a loss in property value, and the court’s ruling won’t change that, regardless.

None of the plaintiffs in this case are alleging that the confinements violate the law or have caused their property value to diminish. Their argument is under Article 1, Section 1 of the Iowa Constitution, which lays out Iowans’ inalienable rights, including acquiring, possessing and protecting their property.”

Yesterday’s Register article also noted that, “The Supreme Court will hear an appeal of a summary judgment by Wapello County District Court Judge Annette Scieszinski, who ruled the law unconstitutional as applied to the facts of the case.

“The plaintiffs want the Supreme Court to go further and declare the law unconstitutional in all circumstances, but lawyers for the defendants, Valley View Swine and JBS Live Pork, say the court should affirm the law as constitutional and a reasonable exercise of the Legislature’s power to create regulations. They say the confinements were built more than twice as far away from the plaintiffs as required by state regulations and that confinements shouldn’t be held liable if they’re following the law.”

This entry was posted in Agriculture Law, General Interest, Real Estate Law. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.