Articles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court

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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

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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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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

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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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Randy Betz hired attorney Vincent Megna to represent him in a dispute with Diamond Jim’s Auto Sales. Megna filed a lawsuit on Betz’s behalf under two fee-shifting statutes. During the litigation, Betz and Diamond Jim’s settled the case without their attorneys’ knowledge or approval. The settlement agreement did not address statutory attorney’s fees. Megna moved to recover his statutory fees from Diamond Jim. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that the statutory right to recover attorney’s fees belonged to Betz and not his attorneys and that the settlement agreement was a binding contract between Betz and Diamond Jim’s. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the settlement agreement was void due to public policy concerns with enforcing settlements made “behind the backs” of the attorneys in cases brought under fee-shifting statutes. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the statutory right to recover attorney’s fees belonged to Betz, and Betz did not assign his right to recover those fees to Megna in their fee agreement; and (2) therefore, Megna’s remedy against Diamond Jim’s was foreclosed. View "Betz v. Diamond Jim's Auto Sales" on Justia Law

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Robert Kraft formed Electronic Printing Systems, Inc. (the company), which was rebranded, restructured, and sold to various entities. This case involved several leases that the company and its progenies had with Anthony Gagliano & Co., Inc. (Gagliano). Gagliano filed claims against defendants New Electronic Printing Systems, LLC; Openfirst, LLC; Robert Kraft; and Quad/Graphics, Inc. concerning rent allegedly owned under several commercial leases. The circuit court granted (1) granted summary judgment for Quad/Graphics, the last entity to acquire assets of the company; and (2) after trial, directed a verdict in favor of Defendants, concluding that Gagliano did not give sufficient notice to extend the leases to the time when the alleged breach occurred. The court of appeals reversed summary judgment in favor of Quad/Graphics and reversed the circuit court’s directed verdict. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Gagliano’s notice was valid because Gagliano gave sufficient notice to extend the leases to the time when the alleged breach occurred; and (2) Qaud/Graphics was not liable to Gagliano because Quad/Graphics was a subtenant of the lessee, not an assignee of the leases. View "Anthony Gagliano & Co., Inc. v. Openfirst, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Milwaukee County sheriff’s deputy, was injured while on duty by a motorist to whom she had just given directions and was allegedly helping to get back into the lane of moving traffic. Plaintiff sought coverage under her employer’s underinsured motorist policy, which pays sums owed by an underinsured tortfeasor to an insured person who is injured while “using an automobile” within the scope of her employment or authority. Plaintiff claimed that she was “using” the automobile that hit her because she was essentially controlling the vehicle. The circuit court granted summary judgment to the insurer. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals, holding that Defendant was not using the vehicle at the time of her injury. View "Jackson v. Wis. County Mut. Ins. Corp." on Justia Law