A federal judge in Tampa, Florida has dismissed a major environmental class action lawsuit against major hog processor Smithfield Foods.

The suit, which sought hundreds of millions of dollars of damages, was filed by a coalition of plaintiffs' lawyers led by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Kennedy had said in a series of news conferences last year that he intended to use it and other lawsuits as a means of "shutting down Smithfield's farm operations."

In dismissing the lawsuit, US District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich also took the unusual step of ordering that the plaintiffs' attorneys pay Smithfield's attorneys fees and costs: "No reasonable attorney ... could reasonably believe that (the lawsuit) had any reasonable chance of success," she wrote in an opinion issued on 24 June.

Richard J. M. Poulson, Smithfield's executive VP and senior advisor to the chairman, said: "Smithfield Foods has great faith in the US judicial system. We knew that this was a frivolous suit from the outset and fully anticipated today's outcome."