Articles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court

by
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

by
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

by
The business-owners liability insurance policy in this case did not provide coverage for a negligent supervision claim arising out of an alleged employee’s intentional act of physically punching a customer in the face. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the Insurer, concluding that there was no coverage under the policy for either the employee’s intentional act or the negligent supervision claim against the employer arising out of the employee’s intentional act. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that where the negligent supervision claim pled rested solely on the employee’s intentional and unlawful act without any separate bais for a negligence claim against the employer, no coverage existed. View "Talley v. Mustafa" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court’s determination that real estate broker Mark McNally was entitled to a commission pursuant to a listing contract between the parties. Capital Cartage, Inc. argued before the Supreme Court that McNally was not entitled to a commission because the offer to purchase McNally procured contained substantial variances from the seller’s terms as set forth in the listing contract. The Supreme Court held (1) Kleven v. Cities Service Oil Co., 126 N.W.2d 64, is the law with regard to determining whether a substantial variance exists between a listing contract and an offer to purchase; (2) applying this standard, in the context of the sale of a business with real estate where the sale did not go through, McNally did not procure an offer to purchase “at the price and on substantially the terms set forth” in the listing contract; and (3) therefore, McNally was not entitled to a commission. View "McNally v. Capital Cartage, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Although Wis. Stat. 103.465 explicitly refers to a covenant not to compete, the plain meaning of the statute is not limited to covenant in which an employee agrees not to compete with a former employer. Plaintiff imposed a non-solicitation of employees provision as part of Defendant’s employment agreement. The provision prohibited Defendant from soliciting, inducing, or encouraging any employee of Plaintiff to terminate his or her employment or to accept employment with a competitor, supplier or customer of Plaintiff. Plaintiff claimed that Defendant engaged in actions that violated the non-solicitation of employees provision. The circuit court concluded that the provision was reasonable and enforceable under section 103.465. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s non-solicitation of employees provision was a restraint of trade governed by section 103.465 and was unenforceable under the statute because it did not meet the statutory requirement that the restriction be “reasonably necessary for the protection of the employer.” View "Manitowoc Co. v. Lanning" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals, which affirmed the circuit court’s judgment dismissing a lawsuit filed by Petitioners, four golf professionals, against the City of Madison (the City pursuant to the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law (the WFDL). Petitioners filed a lawsuit against the City after the City informed them that it would not be renewing operating agreements with Petitioners to oversee clubhouse operations at certain golf courses. Petitioners alleged that the City failed to comply with the WFDL in ending the City’s relationship with them and seeking damages. The circuit court granted summary judgment to the City, concluding that the relationships between Petitioners and the City did not constitute “dealerships” protected by the WFDL. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the WFDL applies to the City; (2) the relationships between Petitioners and the City are “dealerships” under the WFDL; and (3) Petitioners’ lawsuit is not time-barred, and the City is not immune from the lawsuit. View "Benson v. City of Madison" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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