An Oregon Court of Appeals has summarily dismissed a legal complaint claiming that Oregon’s “right to farm law” violates the Constitution, though experts say the statute may still be targeted by additional legal action. Oregon has long allowed farmers and some other business owners to claim immunity from civil litigation arising from common industry practices, a protection that has in turn faced numerous challenges over the years since its inception.
The seven plaintiffs initially pursued litigation against a local farm after chemical runoff from his fields seeped into the defendant’s land. The defendant asserted that his use of the chemicals was protected by Oregon’s right to farm regulation, noting that farmers across Oregon and the rest of the United States commonly use pesticides and other chemical treatments. The court agreed with the defendants, as did an appeals court.
The plaintiffs withdrew the lawsuit and filed another complaint against the state of Oregon, contending that the right to farm law wrongfully infringed upon their rights under the state constitution. The lawsuit argues that that the state made it impossible for them to pursue litigation and compensation. The court again ruled against the plaintiffs in the second suit.
The court dismissed the case, reporting that it did not have the authority to rule in favor of the plaintiffs. The court acknowledged that its decision neither confirmed nor denied whether the right to farm law curtailed the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. This opens the law to continued legal challenges unless the court or lawmakers issue a comprehensive decision that more explicitly addresses the constitutionality of the law.
It is unclear whether any of the plaintiffs plans to petition the Oregon Supreme Court to hear the dispute. The plaintiffs would likely need to show how the right to farm statute has negatively affected them, as the court found that the recent lawsuit was too speculative. The plaintiffs’ attorney rejected the court’s stance, arguing that his clients suffered demonstrable harm from the chemicals.
Oregon’s appeals process is crucial in ensuring that justice is delivered in a fair unbiased manner, allowing litigants to seek ruling reversals from higher courts.
Source: Capital Press, “Appeals court tosses out ‘right to farm’ challenge” Mateusz Perkowski, Nov. 14, 2013