ST. LOUIS — Jurors on Wednesday began deliberations in a nearly three-monthlong trial that accuses one of Missouri’s largest hog producers of creating odors so horrific they make the plaintiffs physically sick.
The lawsuit against Continental Grain was filed in 1996 by 109 private citizens in Daviess, Gentry, Grundy and Worth counties. One plaintiff has since dropped out of the lawsuit.
The trial being held in St. Louis Circuit Court began Jan. 29. The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. The plaintiff’s attorney, Paul Kovacs, has recommended that jurors award each plaintiff a minimum of $150,000.
The hog farms being challenged in northern Missouri now are owned by Premium Standard Farms, which bought them from Continental Grain last year. Continental Grain is the majority owner of Premium Standard Farms’ stock.
The plaintiffs alleged the odor emanates from 28 lagoons, each about four acres in size, that holds the waste from 8,000 hogs. The hogs are raised in long metal barns with concrete floors. Manure and urine pass through openings in the floor and are flushed through pipes into the lagoons, where they naturally decompose into sewage. That is turned into fertilizer, which is spread across the farm fields.
During closing arguments, Kovacs said Continental Grain used the cheapest and quickest techniques to set up its farms in 1994. That effort resulted in waste spills and strong odors, Kovac told the nearly 120 people who came to the last day of the trial.
About half of the people were the plaintiffs and their families. The rest were Continental Grain employees that the company bused down for the day.
Defense attorney Gordon Ankney acknowledged that there some odor was emitted from the hog farms but not to the extent that the plaintiff’s allege.