On April 26, 2018, a North Carolina jury awarded 10 neighbors $51 million in the first North Carolina hog farming case to be heard before U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt. Almost a week later on May 9, 2018, Judge Britt reduced the jury’s award of $23 million in punitive damages to nearly $3 million in punitive damages because of a North Carolina state law that limits punitive damages to $250,000-per-plaintiff. This was the first case tried of 26 lawsuits brought by 500 neighbors complaining about hog operations in eastern North Carolina against Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer.
A new chapter opened last week in the perennial water wars between Georgia and Florida. After briefing by both sides, including amici, relative to whether Special Master Ralph Lancaster correctly decided that Florida had failed to carry its burden in this original jurisdiction action, the Supreme Court in an October 10, 2017 Order granted oral argument in the case to be heard “in due course.” Presumably, that will yield an argument during the Court’s October Term which usually completes in June or July. Spokesmen for Georgia and Florida welcomed the opportunity to address the Court on the merits.
The dispute involves the water of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin (“ACF Basin”), a network of rivers, dams, and reservoirs that begins in northern Georgia and ends in the Florida panhandle. Georgia and Florida have been disputing the extent of each state’s use of the ACF Basin waters for years but recently, in 2014, the dispute made its way to the United States Supreme Court. There, Florida argued that overconsumption of waters in Georgia, particularly in connection with agribusiness uses on the Flint River, have led to dangerously low flows of waters into Florida from the ACF Basin and the downfall of the Apalachicola Bay’s oyster fishery. Florida requested that the Court cap the amount of water Georgia can use at levels that existed in 1992. Continue Reading Supreme Court Orders Oral Argument On GA-FL Water Wars
A key brief from the United States has set the United States Supreme Court on a path towards finally resolving the original jurisdiction dispute between Georgia and Florida over the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin (“ACF Basin”). On August 7, 2017, the Trump Administration filed a brief in the United Stated Supreme Court as an Amicus Curiae in the disputed “water wars” case between Georgia and Florida. Postured where Florida is asking the Court to set aside the ruling of the Special Master who found that it had stated no redressable injury, the government brief sided with the Special Master’s ruling.
On July 14, 2017, three environmental groups (Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club, and Earth Justice) petitioned the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for a full review of its May decision that the EPA properly withheld testing data in response to a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request. The petition for rehearing en banc asks that the full Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reconsider the environmental groups’ arguments as opposed to the three judge panel that originally heard the case.
A recent Eight Circuit decision highlights the difficulties in obtaining class action status in toxic tort actions. In Ebert, et al. v. General Mills, Inc., Class Action Plaintiffs alleged that General Mills released TCE onto the ground and into the environment causing the TCE in soil vapors to threaten homes and businesses in the surrounding neighborhood. Continue Reading Toxic Tort Vapor Intrusion Case Highlights Difficulties In Class Action Certification
The tri-state water wars continue to divide the Southeast as litigation moves forward. In Georgia, two river basins supply water to metropolitan Atlanta—the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin which flows through Georgia, Florida, and Alabama and the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) River Basin which runs through Georgia and Alabama. Litigation is pending over water allocation for both the ACF and the ACT basins. Continue Reading Special Master Appointed in Florida v. Georgia “Water Wars” and New ACT Lawsuits