A legal case between M. Marcouyoux and RTE
A French court awarded damages of around 400,000 Euros against RTE, the French transmission company, to M. Marcouyoux, a farmer, for effects of a power line on this farm. But the decision was overturned on appeal.
The following account is based on information from RTE and our own informal translation of the French court papers.
The initial decision
A French court, the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Tulle, in a judgement dated 28 October 2008, awarded damages to a farmer, M. Marcouyoux, against RTE (the French transmission company) for the effect of the power line on farming operations.
The basis of the judgement was that the problems observed on the farm created a presumption of guilt, and that RTE had failed to produce evidence to counter this presumption.
There was some dispute about whether the problems observed, if they were caused by anything, were caused by EMFs or by stray voltages (stemming from the distribution system rather than the high-voltage power line).
The first appeal
However, the Appeal Court, Cour d’Appel de Limoges, in a judgement dated 1 March 2010, overturned this decision. It held that it was up to the farmer to produce evidence to prove that the effects were attributable to the power line, and that the farmer had failed to do so. Further, the Appeal Court went on to consider the scientific evidence in its own right, and concluded it did not establish any effects on farming operations.
The second appeal
Finally, the Cour de Cassation considered the matter in a judgement dated 18 May 2011, holding that the precautionary principle as incorporated in the French constitution does not overturn the normal burden of proof, and therefore upholding the Appeal Court decision in overturning the original decision.