Wisconsin Supreme Court Accepts New Cases: Occurrences, 12% Interest, and Donning and Doffing

28 May 2015 Wisconsin Appellate Law Blog

Last Friday, Wisconsin’s supreme court announced that it had accepted seven new cases. Three of them are of particular interest to Wisconsin businesses.

In Wis. Pharmacal Co. v. Nebraska Cultures of Cal., 2013AP613/687, the court of appeals addressed whether the negligent provision of an ingredient to a probiotic manufacturer constituted an “occurrence” under a CGL policy. The court of appeals held that there was coverage. In our post, we warned that, “[b]arring review by the supreme court, the court’s detailed discussion of the CGL policies will have broad ramifications in future disputes between suppliers and manufacturers.” Apparently the supreme court thinks it necessary to weigh in. The court will take up three issues related to CGL policy interpretation: the grant of coverage, the definition of “occurrence,” and a “business risk” exclusion.

The second case is Johnson v. Cintas Corp. No. 2, where the court of appeals held that a change to Wisconsin’s pre-judgment interest calculation for its “offer of settlement” procedure could not apply retroactively. (We have written about this case twice: here and here.) It is surprising that the supreme court granted review. While the court of appeals’ decision affects the parties, it is not clear why the issue is one of statewide importance. The only cases that could be affected are those where an offer of settlement was made by early 2011. Few of those cases are still unresolved.

In contrast, the third case, UFCW Union, Local 1473 v. Hormel Corp., 2014AP1880, will have a significant, statewide effect on Wisconsin businesses, particularly on manufacturers. Last term we wrote about Weissman v. Tyson, a case addressing the compensability of the time that employees spend “donning and doffing” work clothes. In Weissman, the court of appeals had decided, in a published decision, that the minimal time the employees spent donning and doffing was “hours of work” for which wages must be paid. Just days before the supreme court heard argument in Weissman, the parties settled. This settlement appeared to solidify the plaintiffs’ preferred interpretation of Wisconsin law. The Weissman settlement also benefited parties like Local 1473, an amicus in Weissman and a plaintiff in a parallel case. That parallel case now might unravel whatever the plaintiffs gained by settling Weissman. The issue is returning promptly to the supreme court by way of certification of Local 1473’s case from the court of appeals. The supreme court has been asked to interpret the relevant statutes and regulations and to determine the applicability of a “de minimis” defense first raised in Weissman.

The Court will hear argument in these cases next term. Decisions are expected by July 2016.

This blog is made available by Foley & Lardner LLP (“Foley” or “the Firm”) for informational purposes only. It is not meant to convey the Firm’s legal position on behalf of any client, nor is it intended to convey specific legal advice. Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Foley & Lardner LLP, its partners, or its clients. Accordingly, do not act upon this information without seeking counsel from a licensed attorney. This blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Communicating with Foley through this website by email, blog post, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship for any legal matter. Therefore, any communication or material you transmit to Foley through this blog, whether by email, blog post or any other manner, will not be treated as confidential or proprietary. The information on this blog is published “AS IS” and is not guaranteed to be complete, accurate, and or up-to-date. Foley makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation or content of the site. Foley expressly disclaims all other guarantees, warranties, conditions and representations of any kind, either express or implied, whether arising under any statute, law, commercial use or otherwise, including implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Foley or any of its partners, officers, employees, agents or affiliates be liable, directly or indirectly, under any theory of law (contract, tort, negligence or otherwise), to you or anyone else, for any claims, losses or damages, direct, indirect special, incidental, punitive or consequential, resulting from or occasioned by the creation, use of or reliance on this site (including information and other content) or any third party websites or the information, resources or material accessed through any such websites. In some jurisdictions, the contents of this blog may be considered Attorney Advertising. If applicable, please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Photographs are for dramatization purposes only and may include models. Likenesses do not necessarily imply current client, partnership or employee status.

Related Services