Wisconsin’s dairy industry and a group of rural banks are asking the state Supreme Court to uphold a jury’s decision to award more than $13 million to a Trempealeau County farmer in what would be the state’s largest stray voltage settlement.
In August 2017, a jury found that Northern States Power Co., or NSP, a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, 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 farm near Galesville.
The Haldersons claimed their herd suffered from illness and decreased milk production for more than a decade because of improperly grounded power lines.
The jury awarded the Haldersons about $4.5 million, finding deliberate violation of statute, which would entitle the Haldersons to triple damages. But Judge Scott Horne later overruled the “wanton and willful” finding on the grounds that Xcel conducted multiple tests on the Halderson farm but failed to find unacceptable levels of stray voltage. The Haldersons are now asking the Supreme Court to review the case, which they say hinges on an issue “of compelling statewide importance.”
In a motion filed Friday, the Dairy Business Association along with Pigeon Falls State Bank and two of its branches, none of which has a relationship to the Haldersons, seek to weigh in on the case, saying utilities have “paid lip service to eradicating this scourge but have routinely flouted collaborative rules” to protect dairy farmers.
Read more in the Wisconsin State Journal.