Rural Empowerment Ass’n for Cmty. Help v. State of N.C

Matthew D. Ballew

Partner, Zaytoun, Ballew & Taylor

Matthew Ballew practices in all areas of the firm, including Police Brutality and Civil Rights, Medical MalpracticeComplex Business LitigationMotor Vehicle AccidentsPremises Liability and General and Class-Action Civil Litigation.  Matt aspires to a practice of law that centers around helping people. He has dedicated his career to representing individuals who find themselves facing the toughest times of their lives, and often up against the endless resources of insurance companies, giant corporations, or governmental bodies. He has successfully helped his clients fight for and obtain justice in major medical malpractice, complex business and investment fraud, and breach of contract partnership trials in North Carolina. Matt is a courtroom advocate, focusing nearly 100% of his practice on civil litigation, jury trials, and appellate representation across the state.

A native of North Carolina, Matt grew up in Marion, a small town in the foothills of the state. He graduated summa cum laude from North Carolina State University, receiving a B.A. with Honors in History and a B.A. in Political Science. He went on to receive his law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. During law school, Matt was one of ten students from his class selected onto the Broun National Trial Team, the law school’s nationally competitive mock trial group. During his final year, Matt was elected President of the UNC Trial Law Academy, and he competed in the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) “Tournament of Champions” with the 16 top-ranked trial teams in the country.

From the outset, Matt has devoted his work as a lawyer to the representation of individuals, particularly those injured by the negligence, abuse of power, or professional malpractice of others. Matt takes pride in the fact that there are no client or case “numbers” at Zaytoun Ballew & Taylor. There are real people. People with important life stories, each of whom deserves the best the team at Zaytoun Ballew & Taylor can provide. Matt never ceases to find professional fulfillment and revitalization from the strength and spirit of each individual he has the privilege of representing.

He is proud to serve in numerous leadership capacities with North Carolina Advocates for Justice (NCAJ), a volunteer non-profit organization. He regularly writes and presents in connection with continuing legal education seminars in the areas of medical malpractice and civil litigation. In 2014, he was appointed to serve on the NCAJ Board of Governors and continues to serve in that capacity today.  In 2014, he was selected as Chair of the NCAJ Professional Negligence Section.  He continues to serve annually on the NCAJ Legal Affairs committee, and in that role has co-authored and served on moot court panels for numerous amicus curiae briefs to the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.

Case Link View Now
Opinion Filed December 21, 2021
Attorney for the Case Elizabeth Haddix Mark Dorosin Burton Craige Narendra Ghosh Christopher A. Brook
Amicus Brief Writers Matthew D. Ballew
Court NC Court of Appeals
Docket No. 21-175

NCAJ filed an amicus brief in the N.C. Court of Appeals arguing that two recent tort reform statutes were facially unconstitutional. By way of background, this case arises from the recent “hog farm” litigations and jury trials against Smithfield, the largest pork producer in the world. In those litigations, multiple homeowners and residents in eastern NC counties living nearby to open air hog waste cesspools – (euphemistically called “lagoons”) filed lawsuits against Smithfield alleging common law nuisance claims under NC law. These plaintiffs sought recovery for noneconomic damages that have been allowed under the nuisance common law for hundreds of years, e.g. loss of enjoyment of their homes, discomfort, and annoyance damages. In five straight jury trials conducted in the EDNC, before five different juries, each set of plaintiffs won multimillion verdicts against Smithfield for both compensatory and punitive damages.

Following the first two verdicts against it, the General Assembly was lobbied to pass several bills designed specifically to take away the rights of plaintiffs who had similar pending nuisance lawsuits against the corporation, to prevent other similarly situated plaintiffs who had not yet filed complaints from ever being able to file such nuisance claims in the future, and to strip the jury’s right to ever again award noneconomic damages for nuisance claims against IHOs (“Industrial hog operations”). Through the passage of these industry specific tort reform bills (HB 467 and SB 711 in 2017 and 2018 respectively), the General Assembly moved forward with eliminating the rights of plaintiffs to sue for and recover full and fair damages for nuisance claims against IHOs.

The Plaintiffs in the current action represent a collection of affected homeowners, residents, and local civic groups who filed a lawsuit stating common law nuisance claims against Smithfield and alleging that HB 467 and SB 711 were facially unconstitutional. NCAJ’s amicus brief joins the Plaintiffs at issue in arguing that (1) the Plaintiffs’ Complaint stated a valid claim that the Farm Act amendments improperly infringed on fundamental property rights protected by Article I, Section 19 of the North Carolina Constitution, and (2) the allegations in the Plaintiffs’ Complaint are sufficient to support Plaintiffs’ claims that the legislation improperly infringes upon the right to jury trial protected by Article I, Section 25 of the North Carolina Constitution.