Perdue Farms and poultry grower Hudson Farm will not be able to recoup the cost of fees they incurred during a legal battle with environmental group Waterkeeper Alliance, a federal judge ruled on August 27. The ruling follows the court's decision in December 2012 that the Hudson family, which was growing chickens for Perdue, did not pollute a nearby waterway as the environmental organization alleged in its lawsuit.
"On behalf of the Hudsons and family farms across Maryland and the country, we are disappointed that the judge chose not to hold the Waterkeepers accountable by making them responsible for the financial costs of their misguided lawsuit," said Perdue spokeswoman Julie DeYoung. "The effort to recover legal fees was never about Perdue. It was about trying to ensure that another farm family doesn't have to go through the unfair situation the Hudson family faced, and that the Waterkeepers and other organizations like them would think twice about pursuing legal action that uses hard-working American families as pawns in their attack on modern agriculture."
The lawsuit began on March 1, 2010, when the Waterkeeper Alliance claimed a photograph the group took showed a pile of what it believed was chicken litter seeping into a nearby waterway that would potentially pollute the Pocomoke River and the Chesapeake Bay system. The pile in question was actually a pile of biosolids to be used to fertilize crops and the court ruled in favor of the Hudsons and Perdue Farms.
Perdue and the Hudsons then filed a suit to recover up to $2.5 million in legal costs in the case it deemed frivolous. Filings in U.S. District Court said the company paid attorneys for more than 10,000 hours of work. The attorney the Hudsons said the family accumulated about $500,000 in fees.