Jury awards dairy $17.5 million By Twins Falls Times-News TWIN FALLS -- A local dairy that claimed its cows were harmed by stray electrical currents has been awarded nearly $17.5 million by a 5th District Court jury. The lead attorney for the dairy said that, to his knowledge, the award is among the largest ever in Twin Falls County and is also a record for so-called "stray voltage" cases in the United States. Following a 10-week trial, the 12-member jury Tuesday found that antiquated Idaho Power Co. equipment caused cows at the dairy owned by Mike and Susan Vierstra to become sick and reduced milk production over a period of several years. The jury calculated compensatory damages at $7.49 million and set punitive damages at $10 million. The dairy had sought $8 million in compensatory damages and up to $40 million in punitive damages, said Ken Peterson, a Kansas attorney who represented the Vierstras in the trial. Idaho Power was found to be 85 percent at fault for damages to the dairy, while the jury placed 15 percent of the responsibility on the dairy. Peterson said Wednesday he was pleased with the verdict but thinks the award would have been larger "if we had done a few things differently." He declined to specify what he would do differently, but he said he learned things from the trial that could be applied in other stray voltage lawsuits. "This in an important national issue, because the utilities have not taken care of the rural lines like they should," Peterson said. "They're antiquated, they're outdated, they have unbalanced loads on them, and they present a tremendous threat to the agricultural community. The havoc they raise on all kinds of livestock is just unbelievable. Many farmers have gone broke, and they don't know that's the reason why." Idaho Power indicated that it intends to appeal the verdict. "We're certainly disappointed by the decision in the Vierstra case and surprised by the jury's verdict," company spokeswoman Anne Alenskis said Wednesday. "We're surprised because along with several independent electricians, we investigated the company's facilities that were in issue ... and through those investigations found the company's facilities to be within normal operating standards."