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In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court’s interlocutory order that determined that the fire at issue constituted multiple occurrences instead of a single occurrence, holding that the fire constituted a single occurrence pursuant to the commercial general liability (CGL) policy. The court of appeals concluded (1) under the CGL policy, there was an occurrence each time the fire spread to a new piece of real property, and (2) therefore, the $2 million aggregate limit applied rather than the $500,000 per-occurrence limit for property damage due to fire arising from logging and lumbering operations. Both the circuit court and court of appeals purported to apply the “cause theory.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals’ approach was unpersuasive and had unreasonable consequences and that the $500,000 per-occurrence limit for property damage applied. View "SECURA Insurance v. Lyme St. Croix Forest Company, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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The City of Milwaukee’s 2013 amendment to its charter ordinance that reduced the right of each individual employee-member of the Employee Retirement System (ERS) to vote for three employees of his or her choice to serve on the ERS Annuity and Pension Board, modified the “other rights” of employee-members of the ERS who were members prior to the amendment and, therefore, was contrary to state law. In 1947, the State granted all first class cities the opportunity to manage the ERS pursuant to the exercise of home rule powers but also protected individual rights of those persons who were members of an ERS by precluding amendment that modified “the annuities, benefits, or other rights of any persons who are members of the system prior to the effective date of such amendment.” Laws of 1947, chapter 441, section 31(1). After the City amended its charter in 2013, Plaintiffs challenged the amendment, arguing that it violated state law. The Supreme Court agreed and restored the right of employee-members to vote for three employees of their choice to serve as employee-members of the Board. View "Milwaukee Police Ass’n v. City of Milwaukee" on Justia Law

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The circuit court erred in granting Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence discovered during a search incident to arrest on the basis that “‘judicial integrity’ was vital enough to justify exclusion of evidence when the issuing court’s arrest warrant was invalid ab initio.” Defendant was charged with one count of possession of methamphetamine. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that, while a warrant had been issued and law enforcement did not engage in misconduct in executing the warrant, his constitutional rights were violated because the warrant violated his due process rights. The reviewing court agreed and granted the motion to suppress. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) suppression of evidence discovered during the search incident to arrest was not appropriate because the sole purpose of the exclusionary rule is to deter police misconduct, and there was no police misconduct in this case; and (2) neither judicial integrity nor judicial error is a standalone basis for suppression under the exclusionary rule. View "State v. Kerr" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court may question a university’s decision to suspend a tenured faculty member and must not defer to the university’s procedure for suspending and dismissing tenured faculty members. Marquette University suspended Dr. John McAdams, a tenured faculty member, because of a blog post. McAdams brought a breach of contract claim against the University, arguing that the parties' contract guaranteed the right to be free of disciplinary repercussions under the circumstances of this case. The University argued that courts may not question its decision so long as the University did not abuse its discretion, infringe any constitutional rights, act in bad faith, or engage in fraud. The circuit court concluded that it must defer to the University’s resolution of McAdams’ claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the University’s internal dispute resolution process is not a substitute for McAdams’ right to sue in Wisconsin courts; and (2) the University breached its contract with McAdams when it suspended him for engaging in activity protected by the contract’s guarantee of academic freedom. View "McAdams v. Marquette University" on Justia Law

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Defendant voluntarily consented to a blood draw by his conduct of driving on Wisconsin’s roads and drinking to a point evidencing probable cause of intoxication and forfeited the statutory opportunity under Wis. Stat. 343.305(4) to withdraw his consent previously given by drinking to the point of unconsciousness. Defendant was convicted of operating while intoxicated and with a prohibited alcohol concentration. The conviction was based on the test of Defendant's blood that was drawn without a warrant while he was unconscious, pursuant to Wis. Stat. 343.305(3)(b). Defendant moved to suppress the results of the blood test, asserting that the warrantless blood draw violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment. The circuit court denied the suppression motion in reliance on section 343.305(3)(b). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 343.305(3)(b) applied, which, under the totality of the circumstances, reasonably permitted drawing Defendant’s blood. View "State v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant’s judgment of conviction and sentence and upholding the circuit court’s order denying his postconviction motion, holding that Defendant was entitled to resentencing because the circuit court relied on an improper sentencing factor. Defendant argued that he was entitled to withdraw his no contest pleas because his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress blood evidence collected without a warrant and that he was entitled to resentencing. The Supreme Court held (1) a motion to suppress the blood evidence would have been meritless because exigent circumstances existed permitting police to draw Defendant’s blood absent a warrant, and therefore, counsel’s failure to file a motion to suppress did not constitute deficient performance; and (2) the circuit court impermissibly lengthened Defendant’s sentence because he refused a warrantless blood draw, in violation of Birchfield v. North Dakota, 579 U.S. __ (2016). View "State v. Dalton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle, homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle, holding that the erroneous exclusion of data from a portable GPS unit was harmless. Defendant was involved in a single-vehicle crash in which Defendant was seriously injured and his girlfriend, R.C., was killed. The only factual dispute at trial was whether it was Defendant or R.C. who was driving at the time of the crash. R.C. owned a portable GPS unit that she kept in the vehicle, from which officers recreated the vehicle’s movements and calculated its speed on the date of the accident. Defendant moved for the admission of GPS data before the accident to show that R.C. was likely driving the vehicle at the time of the accident. The circuit court excluded the GPS data. The court of appeals accepted for purposes of appeal that the circuit court’s exclusion of the GPS data was erroneous but that the error was harmless. The Supreme Court affirmed. View "State v. Monahan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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At issue was whether a contract executed by Becker Property Services LLC and Cintas Corporation No. 2 containing indemnification and choice-of-law provisions entitled Cintas to indemnification for damages caused by its own negligence. The parties agreed that Ohio’s law controlled the interpretation of their contract but disagreed over whether that provision should be enforced. The circuit court concluded that the contract did not require Becker to defend or indemnify Cintas for its own negligence under Wisconsin law, adding that, if Ohio law had applied instead, the indemnification provision would have been sufficient to require Becker to indemnify Cintas for its own negligence. The court of appeals reversed, holding that, even under Wisconsin law, the contract required Becker to defend and indemnify Cintas for its own negligence. The Supreme Court held (1) no public policy required the Court to preempt the parties’ agreement that Ohio law would control the contract; and (2) the contract’s indemnification agreement unambiguously required Becker to defend and indemnify Cintas even for its own negligence. View "Cintas Corp. No. 2 v. Becker Property Services LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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A majority of the Supreme Court held that the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Evers, may select his own lawyer to represent him in an action in which he has been sued in his official capacity, thus rejecting Petitioners’ argument that the Wisconsin Constitution and applicable statutes require the Department of Justice (DOJ) to represent Evers. Petitioners sought a declaratory judgment that Evers and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) must comply with the REINS Act, 2017 Wis. Act 57. A dispute arose between DPI and DOJ regarding which entity would provide representation for Evers and DPI in this case. Evers and DPI claimed that they would not refer the matter to DOJ for representation. DOJ moved to strike the appearance by DPI’s in-house counsel. The Supreme Court held (1) Evers and DPI were entitled to counsel of their choice and were not required to be represented by DOJ; and (2) the governor was not a necessary party to this action. View "Koschkee v. Evers" on Justia Law

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In this challenge to the legislatively-enacted cap of $750,000 on noneconomic damages for victims of medical malpractice set forth in Wis. Stat. 893.55, the Supreme Court held that section 893.55 is facially constitutional and constitutional as applied to Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs were awarded noneconomic damages of $16,500,000 in a medical malpractice action. The defendant moved to reduce the jury’s noneconomic damage award to $750,000, as required by the cap. Plaintiffs moved for entry of judgment on the verdict as well as for declaratory judgment that Wis. Stat. 655.017 and 893.55(4) are unconstitutional facially and as applied to Plaintiffs. Relying on Ferdon ex rel. Petrucelli v. Wisconsin Patients Compensation Fund, 701 N.W.2d 440 (Wis. 2005), the circuit court held that the cap was unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiffs on equal protection and due process grounds. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the statutory cap on noneconomic damages was unconstitutional on its face because it violated the principles articulated in Ferdon. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the $750,00 cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice judgments and settlements is constitutional both facially and as applied to Plaintiffs; and (2) Ferdon is overruled because it erroneously invaded the province of the legislature and applied an erroneous standard of review. View "Mayo v. Wisconsin Injured Patients & Families Compensation Fund" on Justia Law