Justia Wisconsin Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The circuit court affirmed a determination by the Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC) that Appellant was ineligible for unemployment benefits because she was terminated for substantial fault. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant was entitled to unemployment compensation because her actions did not fit within the definition of substantial fault as set forth in Wis. Stat. 103.04(5g)(a) where she was terminated for committing “one or more inadvertent errors” during the course of her employment. Remanded to LIRC to determine the amount of unemployment benefits Appellant was owed. View "Operton v. Labor & Industry Review Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that an attorney authorized by his or her client in writing via a HIPAA release form to obtain the client’s health care records is a “person authorized by the patient” under Wis. Stat. 146.83(3f)(b)4.-5. and is therefore exempt from paying certification charges and retrieval fees under these subdivisions. Accordingly, the Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals in this class action lawsuit, holding that Plaintiff’s attorney was a “person authorized by the patient” and was therefore exempt from the certification charge and retrieval fee for obtaining copies of Plaintiff’s health care records. View "Moya v. Healthport Technologies, LLC" on Justia Law

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Two motorcyclists died when Defendant’s vehicle collided with them on a highway. Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of hit and run resulting in death. The circuit court sentenced Defendant to ten years’ imprisonment and ten years’ extended supervision for each count, with the term of imprisonment for the first count to be served consecutive to the term of imprisonment for the second count. Defendant challenged his sentences on appeal, arguing, inter alia, that he was unconstitutionally punished for two counts of hit and run resulting in death even though he only committed a single offense - fleeing from the scene. The Supreme Court affirmed the sentence, holding (1) Defendant committed two offenses when he fled from the scene of the accident, and the legislature authorized punishment for each offense; and (2) the circuit court did not impose an unduly harsh sentence. View "State v. Pal" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with obstructing an officer. The State Public Defender (SPD) appointed a lawyer. Thereafter, three appointed attorneys withdrew in rapid succession. The circuit court determined that Defendant had forfeited his right to appointed counsel, and the SPD denied Defendant’s request for a fourth attorney. Defendant represented himself at the one-day trial, and the jury found him guilty of obstruction. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) right-to-counsel warnings in forfeiture cases and the procedures suggested by the dissent in State v. Cummings are strongly recommended but not required; and (2) after applying the standard enunciated in State v. Cummings to this case, it is clear that Defendant forfeited his constitutional right to counsel by engaging in voluntary and deliberate conduct that frustrated the progression of his case and interfered with the proper administration of justice. View "State v. Suriano" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of the crime of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated - fourth offense. Defendant requested a new trial, arguing that his trial attorney provided ineffective assistance by failing to object to the prosecutor’s statements that Defendant had refused to submit to a breathalyzer test following his arrest for drunk driving. Specifically, Defendant claimed that he possessed a constitutional right to refuse to take a warrantless breathalyzer test such that the prosecutor was not permitted to seek an inference of guilt from the refusal, and therefore, his trial attorney should have objected to the prosecutor’s statements. The circuit court denied the postconviction motion with a hearing. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) upon Defendant’s arrest for drunk driving he had no constitutional or statutory right to refuse to take the breathalyzer test; (2) therefore, the State could comment at trial on Defendant's improper refusal to take the test; and (3) accordingly, Defendant’s attorney did not render ineffective assistance of counsel in failing to argue contrary to controlling precedent. View "State v. Lemberger" on Justia Law

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Garland Brothers Joint Venture owned property at which Charter Manufacturing Company had housed its business under a triple net lease. MWF later purchased the property. MWF hired Hunzinger Construction to perform renovation work on the property. Russell Brenner, a Hunzinger employee, was injured while performing the work. Brenner and his wife sued MWF, Garland Brothers, and Charter, alleging negligence and violation of Wisconsin’s safe-place statutes. The circuit court dismissed Charter and Garland Brothers, concluding that the caveat emptor principle precluded judgment against them. The Brenners subsequently settled with Charter and Garland Brothers. MWF appealed Charter’s dismissal. The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court’s summary judgment in favor of Charter. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the caveat emptor doctrine applied to Charter, and MWF did not establish any exception to the doctrine in this case. View "Brenner v. National Casualty Co." on Justia Law
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Taft and Carol Parsons sued Associated Banc-Corp asserting claims pertaining to a failed construction project. The Parsons sought a jury trial, but Associated claimed that the Parsons contractually waived their right to a jury in a pre-litigation jury waiver provision in a contract between the parties. The jury circuit granted Associated’s motion to strike the Parson’s jury demand, concluding that the jury waiver clause in the contract was enforceable. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the case for a jury trial, concluding (1) the waiver was procedurally and substantively unconscionable, and (2) Associated forfeited its right to object because its objection was not timely. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the pre-litigation jury waiver provision in the contract between the parties was enforceable, and Associated did not need to offer additional proof that the Parsons knowingly and voluntarily agreed to this waiver; and (2) Associated’s motion to strike the Parsons’ jury demand was not untimely. Remanded. View "Parsons v. Associated Banc-Corp" on Justia Law
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American Transmission Company and ATC Management, Inc. (collectively, ATC) filed a declaratory judgment action seeking an order from the court declaring that it had a right, under a 1969 easement, to enter the property of Ricardo and Julie Garza and trim and remove trees threatening or endangering the operation of a transmission line. The circuit court granted summary judgment for ATC, concluding (1) under the 1969 easement, ATC was allowed to remove the trees, and they did not trespass on the Garzas’ property in doing so; and (2) the 1969 easement was not invalidated when wood poles were replaced with steel poles. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that ATC had no rights to enter the Garzas’ property because the transmission line upon which the 1969 easement was founded no longer existed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the 1969 easement is still in effect, thereby allowing ATC to enter the Garzas’ property; and (2) the 1969 easement grants to ATC the right to make the change from wood poles to steel poles. View "American Transmission Co. v. Garza" on Justia Law

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McKee Family I, LLC (McKee) objected to the City of Fitchburg’s rezoning of two lots from a planned development district (PDD) zoning classification to a residential-medium (R-M) zoning classification. McKee sought declaratory judgment, damages, and injunctive relief on the grounds that the rezoning of the lots was unlawful. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the City. Acknowledging that it did not submit an application for a building permit, McKee appealed, arguing that it had a vested right in developing land under the PDD zoning classification. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that McKee did not have a vested right in the PDD zoning classification when the City rezoned the lots. The court declined to address McKee’s constitutional taking argument, reasoning that it was an undeveloped argument. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) McKee did not have a vested right in developing the property under the PDD zoning classification because it did not apply for a building permit and because a PDD zoning classification does not create contractual expectations upon which developers may rely; and (2) because McKee conditioned its takings claim on its claim for vested rights, the Court need not reach McKee’s constitutional takings claim. View "McKee Family I, LLC v. City of Fitchburg" on Justia Law

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Petitioners brought suit against Pro Electric Contractors for negligence in connection with Pro Electric’s work as a contractor on a government construction project. Pro Electric argued that the damage at issue occurred because of construction design decisions made by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) and that Pro Electric was simply implementing DOT’s decisions. The district court granted summary judgment for Pro Electric. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the undisputed facts do not support a reasonable inference that Pro Electric failed to comply with its duties in Wis. Stat. 182.0175(2)(am). View "Melchert v. Pro Electric Contractors" on Justia Law