For release on: February 21, 2012
For more information contact:
Kim Ferraro, Hoosier Environmental Council – firstname.lastname@example.org or 219-464-0104
Ryan Puckett, two21 LLC – email@example.com or 317-721-7221
Unneeded Factory Farm Protection Bill Heads to Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee
HB 1091 Would Effectively Close Courthouse Doors to
Hoosiers Suffering from Factory Farm Pollution
INDIANAPOLIS – A bill that would have the effect of shutting the door of the courthouse to Hoosier families living near factory farms – also known as confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) — will be heard before the Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 22, after having passed the Indiana House 54-40 last month.
Indiana’s existing 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).
Proponents of the so-called Right to Farm bill claim HB 1091 is necessary to provide CAFOs with a legal defense against frivolous nuisance lawsuits. Yet, Indiana already has a Right to Farm Act (Ind. Code § 32-30-6-9) that protects all agricultural operations, including farmers, with absolute immunity 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.
Supporters of HB 1091 contend that the bill is needed to discourage activists from using the courts to advance their agendas. This argument is unfounded, especially considering that a mere ten nuisance lawsuits have been filed against CAFOs in the last decade, and not one has been dismissed for being frivolous.
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). Furthermore, Rule 3.1 of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits lawyers from bringing frivolous lawsuits or risk losing their law license.
“HB 1091 does nothing to amend or change the existing, broad protection under Indiana’s Right to Farm act,” said Kim Ferraro, HEC’s director of water and agricultural policy. “If written into law, this wholly unnecessary measure will serve only to frighten Hoosier families from exercising their legal rights against CAFOs for fear of retribution with a costly SLAPP suit (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation).”
HEC supports farmers who raise 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.