Jury awards Fayette County dairy farm $4.75M in stray voltage lawsuit

This photo of Vagts Dairy Farm operation was included in exhibits filed for the stray voltage civil trial. (Fayette County District Court records)

A Fayette County jury awarded $4.75 million in damages to a West Union dairy that sued a pipeline company over stray voltage.

The verdict was announced Monday, Jan. 30, in Fayette County District Court.

The jury ruled that the Northern Natural Gas Company created a nuisance on the Vagts Dairy farm that was a “proximate cause” of damages, which were significant. It also ruled that “the invasion of Vagts’ private use and enjoyment of their land was unreasonable.”

The jury awarded the Vagts $3 million in economic damages, $1.25 million for personal inconvenience, annoyance and discomfort, and $500,000 for the loss of use and enjoyment of their land.

Mark, Joan and Andrew Vagts and Vagts Dairy LLC filed suit in March 2021 in against Northern Natural Gas claiming it created a nuisance with its natural gas pipeline that traverses the farm. The Vagts said stray voltage from an anti-corrosion system that sends electricity into the ground to protect the pipeline had injured their herd and caused the dairy to lose about $3 million in profits over five years, according to court documents.

Northern Natural Gas said the stray voltage claims made by the Vagts were based on unsupported theories, and its testing detected no safety problems caused by the cathodic protection system for the pipeline. The system is required by federal law, it also said.

Eight men and one woman were selected for the jury. Four of the jurors were retirees. One was listed as a laborer and another was a farmer. The others were in the medical and transportation fields.

Civil trials call eight jurors and one alternative juror.


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