Too Close for Comfort: Protecting Agriculture in an Urban Age: Labrayere V. Bohr Farms, LLC

By Gibson, Maggie | Missouri Law Review, Summer 2016 | Go to article overview

Too Close for Comfort: Protecting Agriculture in an Urban Age: Labrayere V. Bohr Farms, LLC


Gibson, Maggie, Missouri Law Review


I. INTRODUCTION

Every American has a daily, intimate, and continuous relationship with agriculture. For most people, this takes the form of the food they eat and the clothes they wear. For others, it extends to the work they do every day to produce these things. But what happens when agriculture gets too close for comfort? Many urbanites, and even other farmers, deal with this problem on a daily basis when neighboring farms create a nuisance to them and their property. This problem occurs all over the country but has recently become an especially hot topic in Missouri. The recent passage of the Right to Farm amendment will affect this issue, but another, often overlooked, development in this struggle was the ruling in Labrayere v. Bohr Farms and the court's interpretation of Missouri Revised Statutes section 537.296.

Part II of this Note introduces issues in Labrayere v. Bohr Farms, the instant case that upheld agricultural protections against nuisance damages. Part III of this Note presents some of the historical trends that led to the court's decision in Labrayere. It also examines Missouri's closely related Right to Farm constitutional amendment. Finally, in Part IV, the court's reasoning is dissected and future implications of the decision are considered.

II. FACTS AND HOLDINGS

Bohr Farms owns and operates a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation ("CAFO"). (1) It began this operation in September of 2011 with an operating capacity of more than 4000 hogs. (2) Cargill Pork LLC owns the hogs and contracted with Bohr Farms to raise them. (3) The operation site includes a sewage disposal system and a composting system for dead hogs. (4) Several surrounding landowners and other individuals ("landowners") filed suit for damages relating to temporary nuisance, negligence, and conspiracy because of the odors coming from Bohr Farms. (5) They alleged offensive odors, hazardous substances, particulates, flies, manure, and pathogens had come onto their property from the CAFO. (6) The damages for the temporary nuisance charge came solely from the landowners' loss of use and enjoyment of their property, not from medical expenses or loss of property value. (7) The landowners also alleged that Bohr Farms was operating negligently. Cargill was included in the suit because the landowners believed it to be vicariously liable for Bohr Farms's nuisance and negligence. (8) The landowners also alleged that Cargill and Bohr Farms were involved in a conspiracy to cause the odors. (9) The circuit court entered summary judgment for Bohr Farms because the landowners were barred from asserting a claim for loss of use and enjoyment damages under section 537.296. (10) The circuit court found that section 537.296 was constitutional and that it did not authorize a damage award for the loss of use and enjoyment of the landowners' property. (11) The court went on to deny recovery on both the negligence and civil conspiracy claims. (12) The landowners appealed to the Supreme Court of Missouri, arguing, inter alia, that section 537.296 was unconstitutional. (13) The landowners argued seven claims on appeal. First, they argued that section 537.296 was unconstitutional because it authorized a private taking. (14) Second, the plaintiffs contended that section 537.296 was unconstitutional because it allowed a taking for public use and did not require just compensation. (15) Third, they claimed that section 537.296 was unconstitutional because it violated both the state and federal constitutions' Equal Protection Clauses. (16) Fourth, the plaintiffs argued that section 537.296 was unconstitutional be cause it denied substantive due process. (17) Fifth, they contended that section 537.296 violated the separation of powers under the Missouri Constitution because it defined "standing," usurping the judiciary's role. (18) Sixth, the plaintiffs claimed that section 537.296 violated the open courts provision of the Missouri Constitution. …

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