Justia Wisconsin Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Sorenson v. Batchelder
Plaintiff sustained personal injury and property damage in a car accident with Defendant, a State employee. Plaintiff delivered notice of claim to the attorney general by personal service and then instituted a negligence action against Defendant. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Sorenson did not strictly comply with Wis. Stat. 893.82, which requires service of notice of claim on the attorney general by certified mail. The circuit court denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss, concluding that service was proper. The court of appeals reversed, holding that delivering notice by personal service does not comply with the plain language of section 893.82(5). View "Sorenson v. Batchelder" on Justia Law
Roberts v. T.H.E. Insurance Co.
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
Wis. Pharmacal Co., LLC v. Neb. Cultures of Cal., Inc.
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
Mayhugh v. State
Plaintiff, an inmate at Redgranite Correctional Institution, was injured during a baseball game in Redgranite’s recreational yard. Plaintiff filed a complaint against the State, the Department of Corrections (DOC), and Redgranite. The circuit court dismissed Plaintiff’s tort action against the State and the DOC, concluding that recovery was barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals’ determination that Plaintiff’s suit against the DOC was barred by sovereign immunity, holding (1) the DOC is not independent from the State, and therefore, the DOC was entitled to the sovereign immunity accorded to the State; and (2) the statutory grant of power to the DOC to sue and be sued should not be interpreted as an express waiver of the DOC’s sovereign immunity. View "Mayhugh v. State" on Justia Law
Dakter v. Cavallino
Plaintiff was driving a passenger automobile when he collided with a semi-trailer truck operated by Defendant. A jury found Defendant sixty-five percent causally negligent and Plaintiff thirty-five percent causally negligent. The jury assessed damages at more than $1 million for Plaintiff and $63,366 for Plaintiff’s wife. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in giving a truck driver negligence instruction on the standard of care applicable to Defendant because the instruction imposed a heightened standard of care on Defendant. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that any error in the challenged jury instruction was not prejudicial. The Supreme Court affirmed, albeit on different grounds, holding that the truck driver negligence instruction did not misstate the law and was not misleading. View "Dakter v. Cavallino" on Justia Law
Christ v. Exxon Mobil Corp.
In 2006, Plaintiffs, former employees and the estates and beneficiaries of former employees at an Eau Claire tire manufacturing plant, filed suit against multiple defendants alleging that the initial plaintiffs were exposed to benzene during their employment at the tire manufacturing facility, causing injury and, in some cases, death. In 2012, the circuit court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss, concluding that Plaintiffs’ claims had accrued at death and were therefore barred by the statute of limitations. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that their claims did not accrue until they had reason to believe that Defendants were responsible for the injuries giving rise to their claims. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the discovery rule permits the accrual of both survival claims and wrongful death claims after the date of the decedent’s death; and (2) under the circumstances of this case, the applicable statute of limitations began to run when the survival claims and wrongful death claims were discovered provided that Plaintiffs would be able to show that they exercised reasonable diligence in investigating and discovering their claims. Remanded. View "Christ v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law
Preisler v. Kuettel’s Septic Serv., LLC
Fred and Tina Preisler operated a dairy farm and raised cattle. The Preislers hired Kuettel’s Septic to apply septage, which is primarily composed of human urine and fecal material, to their farm fields. The Preislers subsequently experienced problems with their well water. The Preislers sued Kuettel’s Septic, other defendants, and their insurers, alleging, among other claims, negligence in storing and in applying septage resulting in nuisance and trespass. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the insurers, concluding that a pollution exclusion clause precluded coverage for harm resulting from the Preislers’ water supply’s contamination. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that “a reasonable insured would understand that decomposing septage is a ‘contaminant’ and therefore a ‘pollutant’ as defined in the policies when it has decomposed and seeps into a water supply.” View "Preisler v. Kuettel's Septic Serv., LLC" on Justia Law
Wilson Mut. Ins. Co. v. Falk
In 2011, Robert and Jane Falk spread liquid cow manure onto their farm fields for the purpose of fertilization. The manure leeched into and contaminated the wells of the Falks’ neighbors. Wilson Mutual Insurance Company, the Falks’ insurer, filed a declaratory judgment motion claiming it did not have a duty to defend or indemnify the Falks against allegations that they negligently spread manure on their property and thereby polluted their neighbors’ wells. The circuit court granted the motion, concluding that the Wilson Mutual policy issued to the Falks contained an exclusion for pollution and that manure is unambiguously a pollutant. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that manure is not a pollutant because, to a reasonable farmer, manure is “liquid gold.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the pollution exclusion in the policy unambiguously excludes coverage for well contamination caused by the seepage of cow manure. View "Wilson Mut. Ins. Co. v. Falk" on Justia Law
Legue v. City of Racine
The question presented in this case was when, if ever, does a public officer’s obligation to operate an emergency vehicle with “due regard under the circumstances” under Wis. Stat. 346.03(5) create an exception to the governmental immunity provided by Wis. Stat. 893.80. This appeal stemmed from a collision at an intersection in the City of Racine between the plaintiff’s car and a Racine police car driven by Defendant, a police officer, who was responding to an emergency dispatch calling him to the scene of an accident. The jury rendered a verdict finding that the police officer’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries. The circuit court granted the officer’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and dismissed the action against the officer. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with instructions to reinstate the jury verdict, holding (1) the immunity statute does not apply in this case to the police officer’s violation of the duty to operate the vehicle “with due regard under the circumstances”; and (2) there was credible evidence to support the jury verdict of causal negligence on the part of the police officer. View "Legue v. City of Racine" on Justia Law
Partenfelder v. Rohde
The Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) generally preempts state law claims relating to train speed. Federal preemption, however, does not foreclose a lawsuit against a railroad for breaching the duty to slow or stop when confronted with a “specific, individual hazard.” This case arose from a collision between a train and a minivan during a Memorial Day parade in the Village of Elm Grove. The injured parties and their insurance companies (collectively, Plaintiffs) sued the Soo Line Railroad Company, a rail police officer, and unknown insurance companies for negligence, arguing that Soo Line should have issued an order for trains to go more slowly through the Elm Grove crossings because the potential increase in traffic was a “specific, individual hazard.” The defendants asserted that the FRSA preempted Plaintiffs’ claims. The Supreme Court held (1) the Memorial Day parade was not a “specific, individual hazard” because the parade created only a generally dangerous traffic condition; but (2) the vehicle on the tracks in front of the approaching train was a specific, individual hazard, and therefore, the circuit court properly denied the defendants’ summary judgment motion as it related to claims regarding the train’s reaction to the vehicle on the tracks. View "Partenfelder v. Rohde" on Justia Law