For release on: February 1, 2012

For more information contact:

Kim Ferraro, Hoosier Environmental Council – kferraro@hecweb.org or 219-464-0104

Ryan Puckett, two21 LLC – media@hecweb.org or 317-721-7221

Indiana House Passes Bill that Will Effectively Close Courthouse Doors to Hoosiers Suffering from Factory Farm Pollution

Redundant Bill is Paradox to Lean Governmental Regulations

INDIANAPOLIS  – A bill that would have the effect of shutting the door of the courthouse to Hoosier families living near confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) passed the Indiana House of Representatives on Jan. 31 with a vote of 54-40. House Bill (HB) 1091 would effectively discourage Hoosier families from seeking redress from CAFOs due to noxious odors, water pollution and plummeting property values.

Proponents of the bill claim HB 1091 is necessary to provide CAFOs with a legal defense against frivolous nuisance lawsuits. However, court records indicate that only ten nuisance lawsuits have been brought against agricultural operations, including CAFOs, during the last decade. Moreover, not one of the suits was dismissed as “frivolous”.

Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) opposes this so-called Right to Farm bill (HB 1091), in part, due to the fact that a Right to Farm bill already exists: Ind. Code § 32-30-6-9 protects all agricultural operations, including CAFOs, from nuisance lawsuits except in very narrow circumstances. In fact, no other Indiana business or industry enjoys such broad protection from nuisance suits as that afforded to CAFOs under Right to Farm.

Additionally, if an agricultural operation, or any other business is the target of a frivolous lawsuit, Indiana law already empowers a trial court to impose the defendant’s litigation costs and attorney fees on the plaintiff who filed the baseless suit. (Ind. Code § 34-52-1-1). Also, attorneys are bound by professional ethics rules that prohibit them from filing frivolous lawsuits or risk losing their law license. (Indiana Rule of Professional Conduct 3.1)

Indiana has long recognized that “a man’s home is his castle” which is why Indiana’s nuisance law gives Hoosiers the right to bring a lawsuit to stop unreasonable odors, noise, pollution or other “obstructions to the free use of property” that “interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property.” (Ind. Code § 32-30-6-6).

“This is a belts and suspenders approach to protecting CAFOs who do not wish to be good neighbors,” said Kim Ferraro, HEC’s director of water and agricultural policy. “This bill is a redundant and a blatant attempt to prevent equal access to the courts. If written into law, this unjust, unfair and unnecessary measure will have a significant and chilling effect on the willingness of Hoosier families to exercise their legal rights against CAFOs for fear of retribution with a costly SLAPP suit (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation).”

HEC supports farmers who raise grass-fed livestock in sustainable operations that are economically viable; protect or enhance the environmental quality of the agricultural lands; and increase the quality of life for farmers and those people who live nearby.

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