Mountaire agrees to settlement in class-action suit

Fairness hearing set for April 12
January 29, 2021

Mountaire Farms has agreed to a $65 million settlement with more than 800 members of a class-action lawsuit against the company for injuries and damages allegedly caused by Mountaire’s environmental practices.

The settlement will be subject to a Monday, April 12, fairness hearing where Delaware Superior Court Judge Craig Karsnitz will review the settlement, hear testimony and, eventually, rule on whether to finalize the settlement. 

As part of the settlement, Mountaire will conduct plant upgrades and remediation valued at $120 million at its Millsboro plant. In return, the litigants, who had intervened in a federal case between Mountaire and Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, agreed to let a consent decree between Mountaire and DNREC be approved.

Chase Brockstedt, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement, “We are honored and humbled that the Millsboro community trusted our firms to litigate this important environmental case. I cannot be more proud of our entire team and the incredible effort over the last three years which led this case to settlement.”

Co-counsel Phil Federico said, also in a statement, “We thank Mountaire for choosing environmental responsibility and doing what is right for the Millsboro community. This settlement is a win-win for Mountaire and those we represent. We wish them well with their upgrades and improvement and know they will continue to be a vital part of Sussex County and the Eastern Shore for decades to come.”

Phillip Pyler, president of Mountaire, said, “Our sole focus now can be on building our new state-of-the art wastewater treatment, which has been our goal all along. We are ready to move forward.”

The litigation has been ongoing for more than two years, after Millsboro couple Gary and Anna-Marie Cuppels filed suit alleging that Mountaire’s wastewater treatment practices had contaminated their groundwater, leading to health problems for the couple. Eventually 800 people joined the litigation seeking compensation. 

While that suit was going on, the plaintiffs sought to have input in a separate action between DNREC and Mountaire over a 2017 wastewater permit violation at the Millsboro plant. DNREC and Mountaire had entered into a consent decree for plant upgrades related to the violations, but the class-action plaintiffs did not think the decree went far enough in addressing environmental problems at Mountaire’s plant. 

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