OKEMAH, Okla. (AP) -- An Oklahoma family that raises hogs for Tyson Foods Inc. has won a judgment of more than $900,000 against the meat producer after barns constructed by the company began crumbling on their property.
An Okfuskee County District Court jury Monday awarded $300,000 in punitive damages and more than $600,000 in actual damages to Ralph and Karen Brewer.
The Brewers raise about 650 sows on their farm south of Okemah. As Tyson contractors, they were required to use the barns designed, built and financed by the company.
"They were supposed to be state-of-the-art buildings," Karen Brewer said. "We tried getting Tyson to make it right. We didn't want to go to court. We just couldn't get them to do what was right."
The Brewers' attorney, Jack Mattingly Jr. of Seminole, said Tyson claimed many Oklahoma growers accepted the company's offer to share the cost of building concrete slats if the growers agreed to waive the right to sue, but at least five growers rejected the offer.
Mattingly said 16 of 17 core samples from the barns' concrete slabs did not meet standards.
"As a result, water had penetrated the slab and it had turned the sub-slab dirt into just a muddy mess," Mattingly said. "The concrete was sinking on itself."
Brewer said they remain contractors with Tyson and have made temporary repairs to the barns.
Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson, which employs 2,225 people in seven Oklahoma cities, issued a statement: "We are disappointed in the verdict. At this point we are evaluating our options with regard to next steps."
Mattingly said he is handling two other cases involving hog barns designed by Tyson. Court proceedings in both are pending, he said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture also is investigating Tyson regarding the termination of those contracts.