Ann Maher Aug. 1, 2014, 11:26am

Southwestern Electric Cooperative denies the existence of stray voltage as claimed by a Carlyle dairy farmer in a Madison County lawsuit,

Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth, who presides over the farmer's 2012 suit, held a case management conference on July 23, and set another one for Oct. 1.

In his lawsuit, Blaine Hilmes alleges his cattle stopped producing milk as a result of suffering electric shocks.

Hilmes claims that in 2010 he discovered that there was a condition known as stray voltage that caused his cattle to experience an electrical shock when they come in contact with various parts of the farm, such as the waterers, stalls, milking equipment and feeders.

Due to the electric shocks, the cattle suffered from a significant decrease in milk production, became ill, aborted calves and suffered reproductive problems, the suit states. Because of the cattle’s problems, Hilmes incurred veterinary expenses, spent extra hours caring for their cows, purchased replacement animals and incurred emotional stress, the complaint says.

Hilmes blames Southwestern for causing the cattle’s problems, saying the electric company negligently failed to properly install an electrical power distribution system, failed to properly balance various electrical grounds and neutrals, failed to determine whether the imbalance was caused from the system and failed to warn of any dangers of its electrical system, among other negligent acts.

Hilmes is represented by Daniel R. Price and Ryan Rich of Wham and Wham Associates in Centralia and seeks a judgment of more than $350,000, plus costs.

Southwestern Electric Cooperative, represented by Joseph Bleyer of Bleyer and Bleyer in Marion, answered the suit stating the allegations are nothing more than legal conclusions and not ultimate facts.

It demands a jury and asks that the plaintiff "take nothing" from his complaint.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 12-L-240.

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