Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Vermont's no place to raise hogs

Victor and Mary Coty owned a bed and breakfast in Stowe, Vermont. Normand and Raymond Ramsey bought the land next door, and wanted to get it re-zoned so they could open a motel. The Cotys opposed them, and the Ramseys were granted a permit to run a motel with a mere 15 rooms. The Ramseys didn't take it so well:

Shortly after the Act 250 ruling was received, a large, rusty storage tank was placed in the meadow. This tank was never used. A few days later, the Ramseys and some workmen erected a fence around the parcel. When Mrs. Coty inquired as to the purpose of the fence, Normand Ramsey replied tersely: “Pigs!” On November 2 and 3, approximately sixteen truckloads of wet chicken manure, averaging thirteen cubic yards each, were dumped along a narrow strip directly across from the Nelson and Flory properties. The truck drivers had been instructed by Normand Ramsey to dump the manure along this particular strip, and Raymond Ramsey directed the dumping of the first truckload. The drivers used the Florys' driveway to turn their vehicles around, and both the driveway and the road were covered with manure. The dumping was halted when a temporary restraining order was served upon one of the drivers, who told police that the Ramseys had finally “gotten even” with plaintiffs.

At the subsequent hearing, the Ramseys testified that the manure would be used as fertilizer over an area of four acres, and the court declined to issue a preliminary injunction. However, the mounds of manure were merely leveled off within an area of one-half acre. In the spring of 1983, approximately eleven to thirteen more truckloads of chicken manure were delivered, and most of these loads were deposited along the same strip of land. An expert produced by the plaintiffs testified, and the court found, that the resulting supply of fertilizer was so grossly in excess of the recommended application that it would kill any attempted crop. The manure encouraged an infestation of flies that plagued plaintiffs' properties during the spring, summer, and fall of 1983 and 1984. A powerful stench also engulfed the area, eventually requiring the Florys to purchase air conditioners for their motel.

In late November of 1982, approximately one hundred pigs and cows were delivered to the property along with a house trailer and ten or more junked automobiles. The animals were fed at a place closest to plaintiffs' properties. In December of 1982, defendant Normand Ramsey telephoned Mrs. Nelson on two occasions and told her that serious consequences would follow if she continued her opposition to the motel.

During the winter of 1982, the animals had inadequate shelter, food and water and, as a result, became sick and lame. Mrs. Nelson made an offer to provide water, but was turned down. Animals died, and decomposing carcasses were left lying around.

With variations, the conditions that began in November, 1982 continued up until the spring of 1985. The manure delivery in 1983 resulted in manure that was over three feet deep in places. The smell and resulting flies continued through 1984.

Because the pigs were not properly separated, the boars mingled with the piglets and attacked them. Roosters were penned together so that they pecked each other to death. By the fall of 1984, the property contained over two hundred sickly animals along with over twenty carcasses of dead pigs, piglets, sheep and a goat. The dead animals were finally placed in an uncovered pit. Many of the piglets born in the winter of 1984-85 died; eight to ten burlap bags filled with piglet carcasses were removed. Normand Ramsey knew of these conditions and took few, if any, steps to improve them until just before the case came to trial. The trial court found that defendants “used the pretext of operating a farm to abuse and kill animals which itself had no purpose other than to intentionally annoy, upset and harass plaintiffs and to cause them economic injury.”

Public curiosity was stimulated by the piggery, and traffic became congested in front of plaintiffs' properties. Tourists would often trespass upon plaintiffs' land in order to view and photograph the spectacle, and defendants issued an instruction sheet to farmhands regarding the treatment of tourists.

In addition, Mrs. Nelson's well and springs were polluted as a result of the excessive manure. At one point, defendants obtained a discovery order as part of their attempt to obtain approval for the motel. The order compelled Mrs. Nelson to allow the drilling of six test wells on her property so that the state could monitor any pollution. She refused and obtained a protective order. Plaintiffs testified that many pigs were slaughtered on the morning after the protective order was issued.

Defendants invested about $50,000 in the farm, excluding the purchase price of the land. No pigs were ever sold or marketed for their income.

Coty v. Ramsey Associates Inc., 546 A.2d 196, 199-201 (Vt. 1988) (emphasis added).

Good to see that the farm crisis of the 80s didn't prevent this guy from using pigs just to get back at his neighbors.

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