Articles Posted in Contracts

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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

Posted in: Contracts

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Plaintiff, the insured of Dairyland, sustained bodily injury and property damage while operating his motorcycle. After paying plaintiff all proceeds to which he was entitled under the Dairyland policy, and after plaintiff had settled with the tortfeasor's insurer, Dairyland sought and obtained subrogation from the tortfeasor's insurer for the property damages that it previously paid to plaintiff. Plaintiff then demanded Dairyland pay him the funds it obtained on its subrogation claim. When Dairyland refused, plaintiff filed suit for breach of contract and bad faith. The court concluded that the made whole doctrine does not apply to preclude Dairyland from retaining the funds it received from its subrogation claim because the equities favor Dairyland: (1) Dairyland fully paid plaintiff all he bargained for under his Dairyland policy, which included the policy's limits for bodily injury and 100% of plaintiff's property damage; (2) plaintiff had priority in settling with the tortfeasor's insurer; and (3) if Dairyland had not proceeded on its subrogation claim, plaintiff would have had no access to additional funds from the tortfeasor's insurer. The court also concluded that Dairyland did not act in bad faith. Accordingly, the court reversed the court of appeals decision in all respects. View "Dufour v. Progressive Classic Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Water Well, which was insured under a commercial general liability primary policy (CGL policy) with Consolidated Insurance Company, was sued by Argonaut Insurance Company. The complaint alleged that Water Well and its employees were negligent in the installation and reinstallation of a water pump and breached their contractual obligations. Water Well tendered its defense to its insurer. Consolidated denied Water Well’s defense tender, stating that it had no duty to defend or indemnify Water Well under the CGL policy. After settling with Argonaut, Water Well filed suit against Consolidated, alleging that Consolidated breached its duty to defend Water Well in the action initiated by Argonaut. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Consolidated, concluding that “there is no covered claim and therefore there was no duty to defend.” Applying the four-corners rule, the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Water Well’s request to craft a limited exception to the four-corners rule is rejected; and (2) Consolidated did not breach its duty to defend Water Well because certain exclusions in the CGL policy eliminated coverage. View "Water Well Solutions Serv. Group Inc. v. Consolidated Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The complex insurance coverage dispute arose out of a 2007 fire that destroyed portions of a home that was still under construction. Fontana Builders, Inc., the construction contractor, and James and Suzy Accola, the occupants/presumptive purchasers, had separate insurance policies. The Accolas settled with Chubb Insurance Co., the insurer that provided their homeowner’s policy. Assurance Company of America, which had issued a builder’s risk policy to Fontana, denied all coverage for the fire. Fontana commenced this action against Assurance alleging breach of the insurance contract and bad faith failure to pay under the policy. Fontana’s lender, AnchorBank, FSB, eventually intervened. After a retrial, the jury found that the Assurance policy did not provide coverage for Fontana’s fire loss, concluding that the Chubb policy “applied” to the underlying facts so as to terminate Fontana’s builder’s risk coverage. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that that the homeowner’s policy issued by Chubb to the Accolas did not apply so as to terminate Fontana’s builder’s risk policy from Assurance. Remanded. View "Fontana Builders, Inc. v. Assurance Co. of Am." on Justia Law

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Patti Roberts was injured at a charity event sponsored by Green Valley Enterprises when she was waiting in line to ride in a hot air balloon and was struck by the balloon’s basket. Sundog Ballooning, LLC was the owner and operator of the hot air balloon providing tethered rides at the event. Roberts filed suit against Sundog, alleging negligence. Sundog moved for summary judgment, arguing that Wisconsin’s recreational immunity statute barred Roberts’s claims and that her claims were barred by a waiver of liability form that she signed. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Sundog, concluding that Sundog was entitled to recreational immunity and that the waiver of liability form Roberts signed was valid as a matter of law. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Sundog was not entitled to immunity under Wis. Stat. 895.52 because it was not an “owner” under the statute; and (2) the waiver of liability form violated public policy and was unenforceable as a matter of law. View "Roberts v. T.H.E. Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Injury Law

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The underlying coverage dispute arose from the supplying of a defective ingredient for incorporation into Wisconsin Pharmacal Company (Pharmacal) probiotic supplement tablets. Pharmacal brought this action against Jeneil Biotech, Inc. and Nebraska Cultures of California, Inc. (the Insureds) and the Netherlands Insurance Company and Evanston Insurance Company (the Insurers), alleging numerous tort and contract claims. The Insurers moved for summary judgment, arguing that their respective insurance policies did not cover any damages that arose out of the causes of action against the Insureds. The circuit court granted the Insurers’ motions for summary judgment, determining that the facts of this case did not trigger the Insurers’ duties to defend. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the policies provided coverage. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was no “property damage” caused by an “occurrence” in this case, and even if there were, certain exclusions in both policies applied to negate coverage. View "Wis. Pharmacal Co., LLC v. Neb. Cultures of Cal., Inc." on Justia Law

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Ash Park, LLC entered into a one-party listing contract with Re/Max Select, LLC providing that Ash Park shall pay a broker’s commission to Re/Max if Ash Park enters into an “enforceable contract” for the sale of a parcel of vacant land. Ash Park entered into a contract for the sale of the land with Alexander & Bishop, LLC, but Alexander & Bishop later breached the purchase contract, and the sale of the land was never consummated. The circuit court declared that Ash Park owed no broker’s commission to Re/Max and ordered Re/Max’s broker lien discharged from the property. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the purchase contract between Ash Park and Alexander & Bishop constituted an “enforceable contract” within the meaning of the listing contract between Ash Park and Re/Max, and therefore, Re/Max was entitled to a broker’s commission even though Alexander & Bishop breached the purchase contract and the sale was never consummated. View "Ash Park, LLC v. Alexander & Bishop, Ltd." on Justia Law

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David Friedlen had worked for Runzheimer International, Ltd. for more than fifteen years when Runzheimer began requiring its employees to sign restrictive covenants or be fired. Friedlen signed the covenant and continued to work for Runzheimer for more than two years until he was terminated. Friedlen subsequently began working at Corporate Reimbursement Services (CRS), one of Runzheimer’s competitors. Runzheimer sued Friedlen and CRS, alleging that Friedlen’s employment at CRS constituted a breach of the restrictive covenants. Defendants moved for summary judgment, claiming that the covenant was unenforceable because it lacked consideration. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) an employer’s forbearance in exercising its right to terminate an at-will employee constitutes lawful consideration for signing a restrictive covenant; and (2) because the circuit court made no determination as to the reasonableness of the covenant’s terms, the cause must be remanded for further proceedings. View "Runzheimer Int’l, Ltd. v. Friedlen" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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A Milwaukee County General Ordinance prospectively eliminated Medicare Part B premium reimbursement upon retirement for employees who did not retire before retirement dates established by Milwaukee County. Plaintiffs were of retirement age, had fifteen years of credited service to the County, but did not retire by the dates established in the ordinance. Plaintiffs claimed that the ordinance impaired their vested contract right to reimbursement of Medicare Part B premiums when they retire. The court of appeals granted summary judgment to Milwaukee County. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the County did not abrogate a vested contract right when it prospectively modified a health insurance benefit it offered for employees who had not yet retired; (2) County employees have a vested contract right to Medicare Part B premium reimbursement when they fulfill all three criteria for its payment, including actual retirement; and (3) because Plaintiffs did not meet all three criteria in this case, they did not fulfill the requirements necessary to establish a vested contract right to reimbursement. View "Wis. Fed’n of Nurses and Health Prof’ls v. Milwaukee County" on Justia Law

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Milwaukee County calculates pension payments for its retired employees by multiplying a retiree’s final average salary by a certain percentage known as a multiplier. The resulting number is then multiplied by the retiree’s total years of county service. Suzanne Stoker and her labor union filed a complaint against the County and the Milwaukee County Pension Board, arguing that an ordinance passed by the County in 2011 that reduced the multiplier for all county service performed on or after the effective date of the ordinance was a breach of contract because she had a vested right to have the former, higher multiplier apply to her post-2011 county service and because she did not personally consent to the reduction. The circuit court granted summary judgment and declaratory and injunctive relief to Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the County did not breach Stoker’s contractual right to retirement system benefits earned and vested when it amended the pension multiplier, and the County did have the ability to make the reductions of the multiplier without Stoker’s personal consent. Remanded. View "Suzanne Stoker v. Milwaukee County" on Justia Law