Vogel v. Grant-Lafayette Elec. Coop.

201 Wis. 2d 416, 548 N.W.2d 829 (1996)

 

RULE:

A nuisance may be premised on an invasion of an interest of another's use and enjoyment of land that is unintentional and otherwise actionable under the rules controlling liability for negligent conduct.

FACTS:

Plaintiffs were dairy farmers and members of defendant cooperative association that distributed electricity to its members. Shortly after plaintiffs built a new milking facility, they noticed problems with their cows. Plaintiffs contacted defendant because they suspected that the cows were suffering from the effects of excessive stray voltage. Plaintiffs filed a suit against defendant on the theories of negligence and nuisance. The trail court ruled against the defendant and awarded damages in favor of plaintiffs. The appellate court reversed the judgment in part. The state supreme court reversed that portion of the appellate court's decision which directed the trial court to strike the nuisance-related damages from the judgment.

ISSUE:

Did the doctrine of private nuisance apply to stray voltage claim by plaintiff dairy farmers against defendant cooperative association that distributed electricity?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

Private nuisance was a viable cause of action. Plaintiffs’ request for electric service itself did not negate the invasion element of nuisance. While plaintiffs requested electric service, they did not request excessive stray voltage to flow through their farm. Because the stray voltage constituted an unintentional invasion and was otherwise actionable under negligence, the dairy farmers' contributory negligence was properly considered, and the total damages award was correctly reduced.

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