Perdue, grower seek attorney fees for failed suit
BALTIMORE (AP) -- Perdue Farms and an Eastern Shore contract grower who successfully defended a poultry pollution suit should be awarded attorney fees to discourage similar suits in the future, attorneys said in filings Thursday.
A federal judge tossed out the suit in December, chastising the Waterkeeper Alliance, the environmental group that filed the suit, for not conducting adequate sampling to identify the source of pollution found near Alan Hudson's Berlin farm.
Perdue said awarding reasonable fees is appropriate because the alliance "should not be permitted to walk away having lost nothing, not even the ability to assert an identical claim against another farm, after having caused the defendants to suffer financial and emotional pain and loss."
Perdue has said it is seeking up to $2.5 million in costs in the case. The latest filings in U.S. District Court said the company paid attorneys for more than 10,000 hours of work. The attorney for contract grower Alan Hudson said the Hudsons accumulated about $500,000 in fees, which would have bankrupted them without the assistance of the community and fellow farmers.
The filing notes that while it is in the public's interest to allow plaintiffs who win to collect fees and costs, it is also in the public interest to award those costs to defendants with limited resources. If not, there will be less incentive to defend meritless cases, the filing said.
Hudson's attorneys said the alliance's primary motivation was not pollution on the farm, but to use the suit to raise money as part of a campaign against poultry industry practices.
Waterkeeper Alliance Executive Director Marc Yaggi said the environmental group was reviewing the filings and did not have any immediate comment. The alliance was represented by the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic. A spokesman for the clinic said it would respond to the motion later this month.
The alliance announced last month that it believes it presented compelling evidence, but won't appeal.
The environmental group alleged that chicken litter was being discharged from the Hudson Farm in Berlin into a tributary of the Pocomoke River. The federal lawsuit was filed in 2010, after representatives from the alliance flew over the farm and identified what they initially believed to be a large uncovered pile of chicken manure. The piles were eventually found not to be chicken manure.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.