BUSINESS TORT/NUISANCE: $5 MILLION
Case name: Bollant Farms, Inc., Steven Bollant, Delores Bollant and Thomas Bollant vs. Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative and Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange
Case No. 07-CV-349
Court: Grant Circuit Court
Judge: Hon. Robert P. Van De Hey
Injuries alleged: Lowered milk production, lost value of the herd, excess expenses.
Original amount sought: $5,400,000, plus nuisance damages
Highest offer: $0
Verdict/settlement: Verdict for plaintiffs
Award: $3,750,000 economic damages plus $1,250,000 annoyance, inconvenience and discomfort (damages for private nuisance), totaling $5,000,000
Disposition date: April 20, 2010
Original filing date: June 29, 2007
Incident date: 2002-2008 exposure to stray electricity.
Plaintiff attorney: Scott Lawrence, Lawrence Law Office, SC, St. Nazianz and Christopher D. Stombaugh, Kopp, McKichan, Geyer, Skemp & Stombaugh, LLP, Platteville
Defense attorneys: Denis R. Vogel and Mary Beth Peranteau, Wheeler, Van Sickle & Anderson, SC, Madison
Plaintiff experts: Thomas Beane, Fort Atkinson, stray voltage investigator; Michael Behr, Ph.D., Northfield, MN, agricultural economist; William English, P.E., Charlotte, MI, electrical engineer; Thomas Hermsen, Fennimore, veterinary medicine; Michael Limmex, BS, Lodi, dairy nutrition; Mark Schmidt, Platteville, master electrician; William Schmidt, Platteville, WI, master electrician; Richard Schulte, DVM, Marshfield, veterinary medicine
Defense experts: Ronald Erskine, DVM, East Lansing, MI, veterinary medicine; Charles Forster, P.E., Oregon, WI, electrical engineer; James Kliebenstein, Ph.D., Ames Iowa, agricultural economist; Roger Mellenberger, Ph.D., Dousman, dairy scientist (did not testify at trial); David Rhoda, DVM, Evansville, veterinary medicine; Daniel Stelpflug, Ronald Jentz and Robert Hampton, Lancaster, employees of defendant Scenic Rivers, utility practices.
Insurance company: Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange
Plaintiff counsel’s summary of facts: Plaintiff dairy farm and its owners/operators sought damages for stray electricity damage to the herd and its productivity between 2002 and resolution of the electrical problems with defendant’s utility system in 2008, plus damages during the herd recovery period to the present. Defendant partially rebuilt its 1930s-1940s era power line in 2002-2003 and finished the rebuild (partially at plaintiffs’ expense) in 2005.
Defendant made another wiring error during 2005 that was discovered and remedied in early 2008. The dairy herd’s health and production improved dramatically after the last corrections.
As in many of these cases, the “cow contact voltages” as measured by the methods of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) did not exceed the PSCW “level of concern” for 60 Hz., steady state AC rms voltage. However, the herd was exposed to ground current transient voltages, originating from the power line, which are short duration bursts of electrical energy and whose measurement and mitigation are not addressed by the PSCW protocols. As in Hoffmann v. Wisconsin Electric Power Co., 2003 WI 64 262 Wis.2d 264, 664 N.W.2d 55, negligence was established under the common law.