Named partners Chris Beeman and Ted Scheley recently obtained a defense verdict after a contentious and protracted six week jury trial in Santa Clara County. Jury selection alone lasted almost an entire week. 28 Plaintiffs filed a complaint against our agricultural client, alleging that its Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) of poultry constituted an ongoing nuisance and trespass. The Plaintiffs are residents who live near the egg ranch, which is located in San Joaquin County and has been in operation since at least 1970. The ranch is the largest egg laying operation in Northern California, and has a permitted hen population of 680,000 that produces approximately 170 million eggs per year and generates more than 50 tons of chicken waste per day. Plaintiffs contended that the manure management practices of the ranch were improper and created excessive odors, flies and dust, making plaintiffs “prisoners in their own homes” and adversely impacting Plaintiffs' use and enjoyment of their properties.
Trial counsel for plaintiffs included a Bay Area member of the Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame, and a renowned national trial lawyer from Savannah, Georgia who has handled more than 130 prior jury trials to verdict. Plaintiffs' team of 8 lawyers called 21 Plaintiffs to the stand and flew in a team of experts, assembled from around the country, to testify on behalf of their clients. A total of 45 witnesses testified over the course of the marathon trial.
In closing argument, plaintiffs' counsel asked the jury to award $14.5 million dollars in compensatory damages, and requested a finding of malice in support of the punitive damages claim against all of the Defendants. After almost three days of deliberation, the jury returned with a complete defense verdict, rejecting all of the Plaintiffs' contentions and awarding nothing. In other words, Plaintiffs received a “goose egg”.