US Wind Farm Operator Settles to Shut Down Neighbours’ Dynamite Damages Case


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A telling-scene there, from the film A Civil Action; which is pretty much how things panned out for a US wind farm operator in Michigan recently.

STT has been following a monumental piece of litigation that blew up over the Lake Winds wind farm in Mason County, for a while now (see our posts here and here and here).

Now, finally, and as predicted by STT, the wind power outfit concerned has been forced to open its cheque book, in order to cut a settlement with the long-suffering neighbours.

Back in 2013, 17 plaintiffs sued the operator, seeking substantial damages for the health impacts, property value losses and the loss of the enjoyment and use of their properties, caused by wind turbine generated noise and vibration.

With the jury panel taking their seats – and clearly acting under the adage about discretion being the better part of valour – the wind power outfit involved, Consumers Energy threw in the towel, just as the first of their (numerous) victims, Cary Shineldecker was about to go into the witness box.

Nothing like a credible witness, heading off to tell a sympathetic jury of his peers (ie, law-abiding American citizens) about his years’ of suffering, to focus the minds of lawyers representing a wind power outfit that has shamelessly visited a sea of sonic of misery upon him (and his young family); and which has otherwise destroyed the lives of a dozen or more innocent young families.

The wind industry operates under a pact that its members must never, ever allow one of these cases to go to a final decision and judgment.

The usual course is to cut a deal behind closed doors; well away from the glare of the media.

Faced with mounting damages claims in Denmark (see our post here), the Danish wind industry has taken to buying up its actual and potential victims’ homes – and even whole villages – calling in the bulldozers, and flattening the lot (see our post here).

The wind industry in Australia – which is also a signatory to the “never let ’em get to judgment pact” – quietly buys out its victims’ properties, bulldozes them (see our post here) and makes damn sure they stitch up the unfortunate (soon to be homeless) family with bullet proof gag clauses (see our posts here and here) – that their lawyers enforce with the zeal and vigour of the Old GDR’s Stasi (see our post here).

worried lawyer

You do realise that if Shineldecker gets into that witness box,
you’re up shit creek without so much as a paddle?!? So get your cheque book out, and let’s shut this thing down right NOW!

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STT hears that – as you might expect in a situation where the operator’s lawyers would have been working in a pool of cold sweat – the settlement in the Lake Wind’s case was very favourable to the plaintiffs.

The wind power outfit didn’t have a legal leg to stand on: along the way, it had lost every step in, and associated with, the plaintiffs’ primary action, with a judge twice declaring that the wind farm was in clear breach of its noise criteria.

It was – as they in betting circles – “on a hiding to nothing”.

So, in reality, it had no other option than to throw money at the problem and attempt to bury it. However, in full credit to the victims, they at least managed to avoid the full extent of the standard gag clause, that prevents victims from ever talking about the health impacts caused by the defendant’s operations.

Here’s Michigan Capitol Confidential with a round-up on what happened.

One Lawsuit Settled, But No Truce in Wind Energy Debate
Michigan Capitol Confidential
Jack Spencer
31 January 2015

A lawsuit in which residents living near the Lake Winds wind plant south of Ludington claimed the facility was making people sick has been settled out of court. Cary Shineldecker, one of the plaintiffs in the case, isn’t allowed to discuss details of the settlement, but is still allowed to talk about the alleged negative health effects that can be suffered by those who live near such facilities.

“What I think is different about this settlement is that, although the details of the settlement are confidential, I’m not gagged from speaking out about the problems with wind energy,” Shineldecker said. “I think everything we’ve done here has helped the community and residents. For too long, supporters of wind energy have been able to silence and discredit those who have to live with the effects of it.

“We saw how they silenced Jerry Punch and his group,” Shineldecker continued. “When his group was working on a study that refuted what wind energy supporters wanted to be reported about the health impacts of wind turbines, they (the wind energy supporters) shut them up.”

On April 1, 2013, a group of 17 residents who lived near the Lake Winds wind plant – others joined the group later – filed a lawsuit against Consumers Energy in Mason County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit alleged that people were experiencing dizziness, sleeplessness, headaches and other physical symptoms primarily due to noise generated by the wind plant’s 56 giant wind turbines, which the plaintiffs claimed had been erected too close to homes.

“We filed the lawsuit based on health impact, property value loss and loss of enjoyment and use of our property,” Shineldecker said.

Lake Winds is the first wind plant developed by Consumers Energy. The $250 million facility was constructed as part of the utility’s efforts to meet the state’s renewable energy (wind) mandate.

The lawsuit brought by Shineldecker and his co-plaintiffs was only the first one involving the Lake Winds plant. Before the end of 2013, Mason County had declared that the wind plant was not in compliance with its noise ordinance. Consumers Energy took the county to court over that determination. It lost at the Circuit Court, and that case is currently under appeal.

According to Shineldecker, the residents’ lawsuit was resolved during the late summer and autumn of 2014.

“It was just about to go to trial; in fact I was in court waiting to be the first to testify, when we were told a settlement had been reached,” Shineldecker said. “It took about two months to work out the wording; then ours was actually finalized the week of Dec. 17.

“To me, we were helping others by being willing to take a stand,” Shineldecker added. “One of these days the facts are going to come out. Twenty years from now the health impacts of living with these industrial wind turbines will be common knowledge. It will be like the way it happened with cigarettes. But right now those who know the truth are a minority.

The talking points used by AWEA (American Wind Energy Association) haven’t changed from what they were saying five years ago. I believe that in our democracy, right will win in the end, but only after a lot of sacrifices have been made.”

Shineldecker also said that his family’s property, which he is selling off in portions, is now going for 78 percent of its appraised value.

David Wand, deputy director of strategic communications for AWEA, did not respond when offered the opportunity to comment. Consumers Energy declined to comment as well.
Michigan Capitol Confidential

Just when the going was about to get a little tougher than usual for America’s highly paid wind industry spruikers, the AWEA, it’s good to see David Wand waving his namesake and disappearing into the ether; very “Harry Potter”!

harry potter invisibility cloak

Being hounded by the press about a problem that won’t go away? Then why not give Harry a call? His cloak won’t make those pesky facts disappear, but at least you won’t need to front up to them for a while.

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Perhaps these boys should give Harry Potter a call, so they can have an invisibility cloak on stand-by, from here on in?

With a pack of jubilant plaintiffs ready to crow long and loud about just what Consumers Energy (one of the AWEA’s clients) has done to their lives, their health, their well-being and the value of their homes – no wonder Consumers Energy and the AWEA went AWOL. Funny about that.

STT predicts that the wind industry’s “run and hide” tactic (for a taste of it in action – see our post here) will fast become de rigueur for the wind industry and its parasites, as the tide finally turns on an industry that – when it comes to moral turpitude, and a general callous disregard for its victims – only has the tobacco and asbestos industries to beat.

Fine company, indeed.

dirtyrottenscoundrelsoriginal

Oh, yes. We took more than just a few leaves from the tobacco boys’ “play-book”. From here on, with the heat rising fast, we’ll be using their “lie, run and hide” tactics – and anything else that might just save us.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. All big business will take litigation to the wire.

    More deals are done on the steps of the courts than inside.

    It is bullying in the extreme.

  2. Jackie Rovenksy says:

    When it comes to this stage it is all the industry has left – pay-up, but put gag clauses on the recipients. It’s about time these clauses were removed as illegal, especially when they cover the ability to report openly on the issue of human health.

    We can all read between the lines, and while the recipients cannot speak out, we can all make a loud noise to say we know why the companies settle or buy them out. If the companies were not frightened of what these people had to say, then they would not demand draconian gag clauses.

    We need a central fund where people can donate, no matter how large or little to help bring cases to court.

    No single person should have to foot the bill to help others. Legal costs are huge, its time the Federal Government put a cap on the charges for such cases; everyone should be able to afford justice.

  3. The wind industry is finally being held accountable for its calculated lying and abusive behaviour toward wind turbine neighbours, and indeed the community at large.

    Thank goodness for your oversight and insight STT.
    Please keep exposing the truth behind this snake pit of RORTS!

  4. Click on the link below to familiarize yourselves with the calculated strategies adopted by the Wind industry in response to nuisance litigation:

    https://purslane.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/how-to-defend-against-nuisance-lawsuits/

    Note that non-compliance is considered to be ‘usually fatal’ to a wind farm operator’s defence….

    “Thus far, the industry has either defeated or has favorably resolved the major nuisance lawsuits brought by landowners. The industry must remain vigilant, however, because one verdict in favor of landowners could give rise to copycat cases. Being prepared for the nuisance of these post-launch lawsuits and mounting a strong defense is the best strategy for the company, the industry and surrounding communities.”

    Calling all copycats!
    Who wants to go first? Waubra? Waterloo? Gullen Range? Macarthur? Cape Bridgewater?

    Take a copy of their nuisance ‘Bible’ to your lawyer, refer to Metroll v Snowy Hydro 2007 (Wyndham Council) as your precedent and give these bastards a run for their money.
    Let’s see if this industry can ‘favorably resolve’ their way out of that one.

  5. Terry Conn says:

    Brilliantly done by the plaintiffs not to agree to gag clauses relating to their health complaints and a salutary lesson for Australian plaintiffs. In any event its time for Australians impacted by wind farms to get serious about paying a few dollars for legal advice and commencing legal proceedings. One side effect will be giving those who are not yet suffering but facing the sword of developments yet to happen is that potential victims may be able to establish a good case for an injunction to prevent inevitable negative consequences. As for those already ‘bought off’ I hope you have recovered. I also hope you might feel well enough now to consider the principle that no ‘gag’ clause will hold up where it conflicts with ‘the public interest’ eg. where ‘public health’ is concerned. Its time to get our judges getting their minds around the reality of this ‘public health’ issue, ie proceedings have to be commenced.

    • @ Terry Conn,
      Re: ‘no gag clauses will hold up where it conflicts with ‘the public interest.’ Agreed.
      They might also consider submitting evidence to the Senate Inquiry under the protections of Parliamentary Privilege.

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