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Jury awards more than $2 million to dairy farmers in stray voltage suit

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A jury has awarded nearly $2.5 million to compensate Wright County dairy farmers for losses caused by stray voltage from their local power company's equipment, the Associated Press reports.

Farmers Harlan and Jennifer Poppler and Roy Marschall have a long-running legal fight with Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association, arguing that outdated and poorly maintained equipment caused health problems with their dairy herd that reduced milk production, the AP says.

In 2012 a jury awarded the Popplers $750,000. Harlan Poppler told the Dairy Star then that health problems with the 200 cows in the family's herd dated back to 2006 and consultant hired to investigate traced them to a power line built in 1947.

That award was subsequently overturned on appeal because of errors made by the trial court. The case was sent back to the lower court, where the larger amount was awarded by a jury last month, the AP says.

Their lawyer told the wire service the Popplers are pleased with the award but expect another appeal.

The Star Tribune reports at least six lawsuits over stray voltage are pending in Minnesota.

While advocates for farmers hope the jury award is a sign the legal tide may be turning in their favor, an attorney for Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association tells the Star Tribune farmers under stress from the market are unfairly pointing fingers at power companies.

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