The Texas 12th Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a permanent injunction against a poultry farm which raised chickens for Sanderson Farms due to nuisance claims, affirming the trial court’s decision that the farm must stop operations after it caused a pungent smell that hindered neighbors’ quality of life.
The plaintiffs, property owners near the farms, claimed that they enjoyed spending time outdoors on their property until the defendants began their operation in 2016. Reportedly, Steve Huynh had previously operated chicken barns for Sanderson and purchased over 200 acres and began running two chicken farms on the property in Malakoff, Texas with family members.
Shortly after the defendants began their farms, the neighbors reported “a pungent odor emanating from the barns” and complained to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Shortly afterwards, they filed two separate lawsuits which were consolidated into the present matter citing counts of fraud, nuisance, trespass, and interference with property rights. They asked the court for an injunction and damages for reduced property value. The trial court did not award monetary damages, but did grant the injunction.
Huynh Poultry Farm, T& N Poultry Farm, the owners of the two farms on the property, and Sanderson Farms appealed the permanent injunction, arguing that the evidence was not sufficient for the court to rule on the nuisance counts.
The court did not agree that evidence was insufficient, and cited that the plaintiffs had shown that the chickens, which at one time was at least 27,800 chickens, produced about 10 million pounds of manure each year and that dead chickens, which accounted for about 5 percent of the chickens, were left in composting sheds and covered by litter and manure. Further, testimonies at the trial showed that dead chickens and chicken manure have strong, bad odors and numerous complaints to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality show that the defendant’s actions merited the nuisance claim, the order said.
The defendants also reportedly contested the injunction, citing that the plaintiffs had a legal remedy and did not have imminent harm. The chicken farmers alleged that the balance of equities should lead the court to dismiss the injunction. The appellate court, however, did not agree citing that the legal damages would not be adequate and that the nuisance is recurring and so there is harm that merits an injunction.
“Appellants argue the jury found that Appellees ‘face little to no harm if the farms remain operational.’ However, the jury found that the nuisance decreased the value of Appellees’ properties by a combined $5,986,500.00, which was not awarded because the jury did not find the nuisance to be permanent. Additionally … the evidence supports the trial court’s findings that Appellees would suffer irreparable harm,” the court ruled.