Stray voltage ruined century-old cattle farm, suit says

Andrea Dearden Jul. 24, 2012, 2:19am

A Highland couple claims they lost a century-old dairy farm after faulty wiring allegedly shocked their cattle into decreased milk production.

Allan and Gay Tipsword, individually and on behalf of their bankrupt estate, filed a lawsuit June 27 in Madison County Circuit Court against Southwestern Electric Cooperative Inc., Ron Hunsche and Ron Hunsche Excavating Inc. Harlan Wallace, Gehrig's Dairy Services LLC, Meyer Electric and Farm Inc. and Unvefehrt Stock Farm Inc. are also named as defendants.

The Tipswords ran a dairy on a Niggli Road farm that had been owned by Allans's family since 1910, according to the complaint. The couple says in 2007 or 2008 they decided to expand the dairy production facilities at the farm. The Tipswords says they hired Unverfehrt Stock Farm to design the expansion and Harlen Wallace to install electrical lines. In late 2008, the Tipswords say they began to suspect there was stray voltage in their new facility.

The Tipswords claim the stray voltage was found to be generated by a Southwestern Electric's distribution system, part of the neutral grounding system. The Tipswords allege their cattle were getting hit with electric shocks every time they came in contact with several metal parts around the facility, including the milking equipment.

The dairy owners contend the repeated shocks injured the cows, caused a significant drop in their milk production and led to the Tipswords paying for unforeseen veterinary services. They say they had to borrow money to make up for the reduced income and cover the increased expenses. The Tipswords say they were eventually forced to file bankruptcy and foreclose on the farm.

The couple accuses Southwestern Electric of negligence for installing a defective product, breach of contract for allowing unsafe electricity to enter their dairy farm and consumer fraud. The Tipwords contend the company also violated the Illinois' Public Utilities Act. The other defendants are also accused of negligence and breach of contract.

The Tipswords say each of the companies are all liable for the loss of their family's dairy. They are asking for more than $750,000 in damages plus court fees. Attorney Brian M. Wendler, of Edwardsville, represents the Tipswords. They ask for a jury trial.

Madison County Circuit Court Case No. 12-L-901

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