State lawmakers have passed HB 467, Agriculture and Forestry Nuisance Remedies, and sent it to Gov. Roy Cooper. The Senate approved the bill by a 30-19 vote Wednesday, after making two important changes. They adopted an amendment to clarify that the bill does not apply to negligence, personal injury or trespassing lawsuits, and they changed the effective date of the legislation so that it would only apply to future cases. Thursday, the House voted to concur with the Senate amendments by a 74-42 vote and sent the bill to the Governor for consideration. He now has 10 days to sign the bill into law, veto it, or let it become law without his signature. North Carolina Farm Bureau strongly supports the bill.
As previously reported, HB 467 clarifies North Carolina law regarding available damages in nuisance lawsuits against farms, and stems from a federal judge’s ruling in 2015 that state law is unclear about damages that may be awarded in temporary nuisance actions against farms. The bill would limit damages to the reduced market value of the plaintiff’s property for permanent nuisances (such as an airport) or the loss of fair rental value for temporary nuisances (such as a farm), but never more than the full market value of the property. The bill provides these same protections for third parties who may be sued based on their contractual relationship with a farm. HB 467 provides a clear rule for applying damages in farm nuisance cases. It compensates people for the fair value of their property, but not for subjective claims for annoyance, discomfort or fear of future harm. In addition, the bill does not prevent lawsuits against farms that operate negligently or break the law, but discourages lawsuits that seek damages far beyond the full market value of a property.
Finally, Thursday was the deadline this session for any bills that do not deal with taxes or appropriations to crossover from one chamber to another. For instance, a House bill that would have allowed for the sale of raw milk was not considered before the deadline. As a result, it is ineligible for consideration for the remainder of the two-year session.