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Thursday, December 6th, 2007 -- 1:13 PM

A high-stakes civil court case involving some area farmers will continue after a Wisconsin State Supreme Court ruling Thursday.

In 2001, August Heeg Jr. of Unity and Ralph Schmidt of Neillsville sued Xcel Energy claiming they suffered negative effects of stray voltage since the 1970?s.

The farmers' case hit a roadblock in 2005 when Clark County Circuit Court Judge Jon Counsell dismissed it. Sding with the power company, Counsell said the statute of limitation had expired.

But, Counsell's decision was overturned last fall. Judge David Deininger of the District 4 Court of Appeals in Madison ruled Heeg and Schmidt made sufficient efforts to determine if stray voltage was adversely affecting their herds' production.

At issue is what Schmidt and Heeg knew and when they knew it.

Xcel Energy claims the farmers discovered the source of their problem in 1993, but didn't bring the suit until 2001.

But, writing on behalf of the Supreme Court, Justice Annette Ziegler While Ziegler says the Court found otherwise.

Ziegler writes the Court holds that "where the undisputed facts lead to more than one reasonable inference about when discovery occurred, summary judgment is not proper." The Court believes the farmers may have suspected stray voltage was causing damage to their herds, but wasn't sure.

According to court documents, the Schmidts claim stray voltage led to a number of their cows dying, getting sick, and exhibiting troubling behavior.

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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