The federal judge managing a series of North Carolina lawsuits accusing the world's largest pork company of creating nuisances for rural neighbors is being temporarily replaced.
The order replacing U.S. District Judge Earl Britt for a trial starting next month was finalized Monday. Court records don't indicate why Britt was replaced.
Documents show the appointment of West Virginia federal Judge David Faber was in progress before a jury last week slapped Smithfield Foods with a $473 million verdict.
That decision made three straight multi-million-dollar losses for the Hong Kong company to neighbors complaining of intense animal waste smells, flies and truck traffic.
Industry advocates had complained Britt's decisions were biased and contributed to Smithfield Foods' losing streak. They say hog farmers hope Faber takes a fresh look at earlier rulings.