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Vogel v. Grant-Lafayette Electric Cooperative

Wisconsin Supreme Court
548 N.W.2d 829 (Wis. 1996)


Facts

Dale and Alice Vogel (plaintiffs) were dairy farmers who received their electrical supply for their dairy from Grant-Lafayette Electric Cooperative (GLEC). In 1970, after the Vogels built a new milking facility, they noticed many cows in their herd started acting strange and suffered from diseases that reduced their milk production. The Vogels began suspecting the cows were being impacted by stray voltage from GLEC. After being contacted by the Vogels about the problem in 1986, GLEC responded to the issue of possible stray voltage by installing an “isolator” at its transformer on the Vogel farm. After this, the health and behavior of the Vogels’ herd dramatically improved. In 1992, the Vogels brought suit against GLEC on theories of negligence and nuisance for the “annoyance and inconvenience” caused by the stray voltage. At trial, the jury found GLEC was negligent and had created a nuisance. It awarded the Vogels $240,000 for negligence and $60,000 for annoyance and inconvenience based on nuisance. The jury also found the Vogels guilty of contributory negligence amounting to one-third of the fault. The trial judge entered a verdict awarding the Vogels $200,000, and both parties appealed. The appellate court held that GLEC had not created a private nuisance, and struck the trial court’s award of $60,000 for annoyance and inconvenience. The Vogels appealed.

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Bradley, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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