NEWARK, Ohio – The jury has come in and reports indicate that Buckeye Egg may now be headed for bankruptcy court.
A Licking County Common Pleas Court jury, after spending the weekend in deliberations, returned a verdict Sunday, Sept. 9, finding Buckeye Egg guilty of causing environmental damage, and awarded 21 area residents a $19.2 million damage judgment.
According to reports in the Columbus Dispatch, Buckeye Egg attorney Tom Rosenburg said following the judgment that the company’s owner, Anton Pohlmann, will now consider taking the company into bankruptcy.
The 21 defendants made up one of two groups of neighbors of the Croton, Ohio, egg farm that took their grievances against Buckeye into court.
The suit was brought in 1999 following a particularly bad liquid manure and ammonia spill that killed fish for several miles down Raccoon Creek.
State suit. In December of 1999 the Ohio Attorney General, on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, also filed a 27-count civil complaint alleging violations of Ohio’s water pollution, safe drinking water, clean air, and solid waste laws.
Since that time the state has gone to court seven times seeking contempt of court violations against Buckeye for continuing violations of agreements to address its contamination releases and to control fly nuisance problems.
The latest complaint was for contaminated water discharges early in August. The state asked for the maximum penalties and jail time for those responsible.
A March 1 agreement with the state had required the company to pay a $1.36 million civil penalty and to substantially alter its practices. But the state had already sought contempt charges for violations of the agreement.
Jurors in the damages suit heard three weeks of testimony, which included arguments by the company’s attorneys that the Buckeye Egg has fixed the problems that had caused the lawsuits, and that the company had already spent $50 million in its attempts to correct its environmental problems.