October 15, 2014
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case challenging the land application of biosolids as a recycling practice.
The state Supreme Court agreed to interpret for the first time the Pennsylvania Right to Farm Act and decide whether a judge or a jury should interpret its protection from nuisance suits one year after the farm work is undertaken, according to an e-mail from Jimmy Slaughter, counsel for defendant Synagro Technologies Inc. Baltimore. The court is reviewing a 34-plaintiff tort case with Gilbert vs. Synagro. Slaughter is principal for Beveridge & Diamond P.C. in Washington.
The briefing will occur this fall and early winter, and the oral argument likely will take place in the spring, with a decision in late 2015 or early 2016, Synagro said in a news release.
In 2008 the plaintiffs sued the municipal biosolids contractor and the farmers who used the biosolids in York County, Pa., alleging that the biosolids constituted a nuisance and trespass. The trial court dismissed the case in 2012 because the plaintiffs did not file suit until more than a year after the biosolids were applied, entitling the defendants to the protection of the statute of repose for farm operations under the Right to Farm Act. A divided Superior Court reversed that ruling in April 2014, determining that a jury would have to decide whether using biosolids on a farm regarding a state permit was entitled to protection under the act.
“We are pleased that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has decided to review this important issue regarding the protections of the Right to Farm Act,” said Lorrie Loder, a spokeswoman for Synagro. “We are hopeful that the court will agree with us and the many stakeholders around the Commonwealth that the Right to Farm Act protects the valuable recycling practice of fertilizing farm fields with biosolids from communities around the state.”