The Wisconsin Supreme Court in Brenner v. New Richmond Regional Airport Commission 2012 WI 98 (July 17, 2012) reversed a circuit court decision dismissing inverse condemnation claims made by property owners abutting a municipal airport due to the effect of flights of private aircraft over their properties resulting from the extension of runways at the
Failure of Insurer to Reserve Rights does not Waive Coverage Defense
When an insurance company feels it has a defense to coverage, it generally issues a “Reservation of Rights” letter advising its insured that it feels it does not provide insurance coverage regarding a particular claim. Its failure to send such a letter to its insured has been held to prevent it from claiming it need…
Voluntary Quit for Unemployment Compensation Purposes
Generally, an employee who voluntarily terminates employment is not eligible for unemployment compensation. However, this is not the case where an employee quits due to "good cause attributable to the employer."
In Kierstead v. LIRC, 2011AP938 (April 3, 2012), the Court of Appeals clarified the law regarding what constitues such "good cause." In that case, the employee quit because he refused to sign a form acknowledging receipt of a disciplinary warning. He was told by his supervisor he would have to sign the form, or he would be fired.…
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Important Changes to Zoning Law
The Wisconsin Legislature in its last session made significant changes to the ability of municipalities to regulate commercial and other buildings.
Senate Bill 472 prohibits municipalities from imposing cost requirements on repair or remodeling of legal nonconforming structures. Such structures are not compliant under currrent zoning regulations, but were compliant at the time the current regulations were adopted. Such structures cannot be made to comply with current regulations, but municipalities have long provided that if costs of repairs or remodeling of a structure exceed 50% of a structure’s assessed or fair market value, the structure must become completely compliant with the zoning code. They can no longer do so, once the Bill is signed into law by the Governor.…
New IRS Notice on Tax Treatment of Employee Cell Phones
On September 14, 2011 the IRS issued Notice 2011-72, intended to provide "guidance on the tax treatment of cellular telephones or other similar telecommunications equipment (hereinafter collectively ‘cell phones’) that employers provide to their employees primarily for non-compensatory business purposes."
The Notice states that when such a cell phone is provided to an employee primarily for non-compensatory business reasons, the IRS will treat use of the cell phone for reasons related to the business as a working fringe benefit, the value of which is excludable from the employee’s income.…
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New Decision on Corporate Officer Liability and Direct Action Against Insurer
A recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision has significant implications regarding liability of corporate officers for negligence, and direct actions against insurance company.
Casper v. American International South Ins. Co, 2011 WI 81 involves an automobile accident caused by an employee of trucking companies who was under the influence of prescription drugs at the time of the accident. The CEO of one of the companies was named as a defendant He was not involved in the hiring or supervision of the driver, but had approved the trucking route used by the driver, which allegedly violated federal trucking safety regulations. The argument was made he could not be held personally liable for negligence committed with the scope of his employment.
The unanimous court refused to accept this argument, in effect acknowledging that there could be circumstances when a corporate officer can be held personally liable for such negligence. The court noted that the even the business judgment rule, which provides protection for corporate officers acting in the course of their duties, protects officers and directors only for negligent acts harming shareholders, not third parties.…
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Personal Jurisdiction Cannot be Based on Agency Alone
In a recent decision, Rassmussen v. General Motors Corp., 2011 WI 52 (July 11, 2011), the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that personal jurisdiction of a defendant under Wisconsin’s "long-arm statute" cannot be based merely on its agency relationship with an entity having sufficient contacts with the state.
The Court was addressing a class action suit brought against various automobile manufacturers for price fixing. Among those manufactures was Nissan Japan. The plaintiff maintained that its subsidiary, Nissan North America, which unquestionably engages in substantial activity within the state, functions as Nissan Japan’s alter-ego and that therefore Wisconsin courts have personal jurisdiction of Nissan Japan.…
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Possible Changes to Wisconsin Condemnation Law
2011 Senate Bill 83, which has been approved by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Utilities, Commerce and Government Operations, would make significant changes to the current law relating to condemnation.
At this time, public entities may condemn private property for any public purpose. The proposed legislation, however, would limit that power. Condemnation of property would be allowed only if: (1) The property would be owned, possessed or occupied for the enjoyment of a public agency or the general public; (2) The property is acquired for the establishment of a public utility; or (3) The acquisition is necessary to the elimination of blighted property.
The legislation significantly narrows the definition of "blighted property."
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Significant Changes Made by Wisconsin Tort Reform Law
Wisconsin tort law has been substantially modified through the passage of 2011 Wisconsin Act 2, which became effective on February 1, 2011. The changes made by this Act benefit businesses in several respects, particularly in the area of product liability.
Sellers and distributors of products are now exposed to liability for product defects only if they assumed responsibility for some portion of the product or its labeling, or if the manufacturer of the product is judgment proof. A plaintiff is required to show some reasonable alternative design was available to a manufacturer in order to make a recovery. The Act imposes a 15 year statute of repose, i.e. claims may not be brought with respect to products manufactured more than 15 years before the claim is made.…
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Records of Companies Related to Judgment Debtor may be Reviewed by Creditor
Judgment creditors in Wisconsin have the right to a supplemental examination of their judgment debtors to obtain information regarding their collectable assets. This examination may require the debtors to produce records for inspection by the creditor.
In Crown Castle USA, Inc. v. Orion Logistics, LLC, 2009AP3029 (December 7, 2010), an opinion recommended for publication, the Court of Appeals determined that circuits had the authority to require companies related to a judgment debtor to produce records through the supplemental examination process set forth in Chapter 816 of the Wisconsin Statutes. The claim was made that the judgment debtor in that case may have made fraudulent transfers to a company having common ownership to avoid collection of the judgment.…
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