Senate File 447, signed into law on March 29th by Governor Branstad, limits the damages that can be awarded to property owners impacted by agricultural operations. This legislation is likely in response to the 2016 Iowa Supreme Court decision in McIlraith v. Prestage Farms, which held that animal feeding operations are not necessarily protected from nuisance suits based on Iowa Code 657.11(2) (Iowa’s right-to-farm legislation). In that case, the jury awarded damages of more than $500,000 for loss of past enjoyment, diminution in property value, and loss future enjoyment of the McIlraiths’ property.
Under SF 447, any nuisances caused by animal operations, which includes both confined and open feed lots, are presumed to be permanent nuisances. This means that plaintiffs cannot file future suits for continued nuisance.
Plaintiffs’ damages in nuisance suits are also limited to combined the total of:
- Permanent loss in property value
- Medical costs directly caused by the nuisance
- Special damages (annoyance and loss of enjoyment) not to exceed one and a half times the total of 1 plus 2
For more information about SF 447 and its passage see this article from the Des Moines Register.