USA: Minnesota farm awarded record $6.3M in ‘stray voltage’ lawsuit

dinsdag, 03 oktober 2017 - Categorie: Juridische Informatie

Bron 1:
25 okt 2015

WALKER, Minn. — Crow Wing Power of Brainerd was negligent in its response to a northern Minnesota farm family’s concerns about stray voltage on their property, a Cass County jury ruled Friday.

The jury awarded Randy and Peggy Norman $4.8 million in economic loss damages and $1.5 million in nuisance damages for a total of $6.3 million, the largest amount ever awarded in a stray voltage case in state history, according to the Normans’ attorneys.

For nearly 20 years, the Normans claimed to have experienced mysterious health issues with their dairy herd that eventually led them to shutter their rural Pine River business in 2012.

“They had unexplained metabolic diseases, high death loss, erratic milk production and great difficulty getting their cattle bred,” said Will Mahler, one of the Normans’ attorneys.

Several veterinarians visited the farm but could never identify the cause, Mahler said. In 2011, Randy Norman agreed to have his farm privately tested for stray voltage and the tests came back positive.

According to Mahler, the Normans approached Crow Wing Power with their concerns and asked them to make corrections to their lines. The company responded by making partial upgrades, he said, but failed to replace a buried line designed to carry current back to the substation. It was this line that was working improperly, according to the Normans’ tests, carrying current through the ground and into the grounding system of their farm.

Stray voltage has for some time been a concern of dairy farmers. Last year, there were at least six active lawsuits by Minnesota farmers against utilities companies seeking damages from stray voltage, according to a story from the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.

The electric current can course through the metal on a dairy farm, including through water troughs. This can lead to cows not drinking enough water, not eating enough food and a reduction in milk production as a result, according to a 2009 publication produced by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Stray voltage can also cause the animals to produce a stress hormone, decreasing the ability to fight infection.

In de USA gaat de retourstroom vaak door de grond en dat kan met de daarop gesuperponeerde netvervuiling ernstige gezondheidsproblemen geven.
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Jury awards nearly $2.5M in damages to Waverly dairy farmers in stray voltage lawsuit
Bron 2:
1 juni 2015

BUFFALO, Minn. — A jury has awarded nearly $2.5 million Waverly dairy farmers who say stray voltage from their power company's faulty equipment cut deeply into their production.

After a long legal fight that included a ruling from the Minnesota Supreme Court, a Wright County jury last month sided with farm owners Harlan and Jennifer Poppler and Roy Marschall against the Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association. They alleged that Wright-Hennepin's electrical system caused shocks to their cows because it was outdated and poorly maintained.

A jury in 2012 awarded the Popplers over $750,000, but the appellate courts ordered a new trial on the amount of damages because of errors by the trial court.

Attorney David Sienko says the Popplers are ''extraordinarily pleased.''

An attorney for Wright-Hennepin did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Galesville dairy wins potential record stray voltage case against Xcel Energy
Bron 3:
7 aug. 2017

A Galesville farmer has won his five-year legal battle against Xcel Energy over stray voltage that he says harmed his cattle and could result in a record $13.5 million award.

A jury this week found that Xcel was negligent and failed to follow state regulations, causing more than $4 million in losses for Paul Halderson and his wife, Lyn, who operate a nearly 1,000-cow dairy.

The Haldersons claimed their herd suffered from illness and decreased milk production for more than a decade because of improperly grounded power lines.

In total, the Trempealeau County jury awarded the Haldersons about $4.5 million, which the court is required to triple in cases such as this where a jury finds willful, wanton or reckless violation of statutes.

That would be the largest stray voltage award in Wisconsin history and likely the second largest in the nation, said Halderson’s attorney Barry Hammarback of River Falls, Wis.

“It really was quite a vindication,” Hammarback said, noting that the Haldersons had to endure accusations they were sub-standard farmers.

Paul Halderson, a longtime member of the Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau school board, said he would rather have avoided the lawsuit but was relieved to get compensation for a problem that began as early as 1993.

“It was a long struggle,” he said. “I wish that we didn’t have to go through this to get this.”

Xcel spokeswoman Christine Ouellette said the company was “disappointed” by the verdict and is “evaluating the next steps.”

The term stray voltage refers to current that leaks from neutral wires into the earth. Animals that come into contact with a grounded object — such as a watering trough — can receive small shocks. This can cause dairy cattle to avoid eating, become stressed and generally produce less milk, according to research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission established guidelines in 1996 for acceptable levels of stray voltage for utility service, although a farm or home’s own wiring can also be the source, said Doug Reinemann, professor and chair of biological systems engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“It’s typically some of each,” Reinemann said. “There’s always some coming from each side.”

According to the Haldersons’ suit, NSP found excessive voltage in one of their barns beginning in 1996 but failed to report it. In 2011, the Haldersons hired a consultant who found high levels of electricity and concluded it was coming from the utility’s distribution system.

The suit claimed this led to reduced milk production and the loss of $5.8 million in profits between 2004 and 2011 when Xcel installed equipment designed to reduce stray voltage.

Hammarback said after new equipment was installed, the cows’ reproduction rates nearly doubled, mortality plummeted and overall production increased by 5 million pounds of milk per year.

“It’s like night and day,” Haldeson said in a statement released by his attorney. “When we had stray voltage, we could never get the production we wanted and the cows were struggling with health problems. Now it seems effortless. Production is way up and the cows are doing great.”

Also named in the suit was Star Blends LLC, which the Haldersons said provided bad feed in June 2011 — shortly after Xcel installed equipment to address the stray voltage — that killed some of their cows and left others sick. The Sparta feed company settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Xcel countered that the Halderson’s claim “teeters on the false premise that their herd should have produced milk at levels exceeding state and local averages.”

The utility claims “no one detected harmful currents” where cows were present and says Halderson’s problems resulted from his expansion during difficult times for the dairy industry, bad feed, disease and inadequate veterinary care, and poor conditions for the cattle.

Arctic View expanded its operation in 2001 and 2005, growing the herd from around 200 cows to more than 900. Xcel says it tested for stray voltage each time new wiring was installed and did not find significant levels.

In 2010 a Grant County farmer won a record $5 million settlement against Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative, and last year the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld a $9 million verdict against Crow Wing Cooperative Power & Light Co.

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