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Friday, September 29th, 2006 -- 8:23 AM

A Clark County judge?s decision to dismiss stray voltage lawsuits filed by two area farmers has been overturned by a state appeals court.

August C. Heeg Jr. of Unity and Ralph Schmidt of Neillsville filed their lawsuits in 2001. Clark County Circuit Court Judge Jon Counsell dismissed them in May 2005, ruling Heeg and Schmidt waited too long to file the suits against Xcel Energy Services Inc., previously known as Northern State Power Co.

But, in reversing Counsell?s decision, Judge David Deininger of the District 4 Court of Appeals in Madison ruled Thursday the farmers made sufficient efforts to determine if stray voltage was adversely affecting their herds' production.

Even though they claim they were losing production since the 1970?s, Heeg?s and Schmidt?s cases were made stronger by a 2005 Appeals Court decision extending the six-year limit on property damage lawsuits if the plaintiffs prove they were diligent in trying to determine the cause of the problem, the Marshfield News Herald reported Friday.

The stray voltage suits will now go back to Clark County Circuit Court for a possible jury determination on losses that could go back 20 years.

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