In Hinrichs v. Dow Chem. Co., 2020 WI 2, 2020 Wisc. LEXIS 2 (2020), the Supreme Court of Wisconsin considered whether two recognized exceptions to the economic loss doctrine—the “fraud in the inducement” and “other property” exceptions—applied to allow the plaintiffs’ tort claims to go forward. The court held that the fraud in the inducement exception only applies to alleged fraud that is unrelated to either the quality or characteristics of the product for which the parties contracted or performance of the contract. In addition, the court held that the fraud in the inducement exception did not apply to the plaintiffs’ tort claims because the alleged fraud was related to the quality and characteristics of the product, and thus was not extraneous to the contract. The court also held that the “other property” exception to the economic loss doctrine did not apply because the product at issue was integrated into a more complete product, and when that happened, the completed product ceased to be “other property” for purposes of the economic loss doctrine. This case narrows the application of two exceptions to the economic loss doctrine, which is a common defense in product defect cases. Continue reading
As most subrogation professionals know, Amazon has been fighting products liability claims across the country for some time now. While it has been largely successful in doing so in the past, in a recent decision, Wisconsin sided with the plaintiff. In the case of State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Amazon.com, Inc., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122316, 2019 WL 3304887, the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin denied the motion for summary judgment filed by defendant Amazon.com, Inc. (Amazon). The court held that Amazon was so deeply involved with the transaction at issue that it was an entity that could be held strictly liable under Wisconsin law. It also held that 47 U.S.C. § 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) did not immunize Amazon because its liability was not based on posting content from a third party. Continue reading
In Rural Mut. Ins. Co. v. Lester Bldgs., LLC 2019 WI 70, 2019 Wisc. LEXIS 272, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin considered whether a subrogation waiver clause in a construction contract between the defendant and the plaintiff’s insured violated Wisconsin statute § 895.447, which prohibits limitations of tort liability in construction contracts. The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision that the waiver clause did not violate the statute because it merely shifted the responsibility for the payment of damages to the defendant’s insurance company. The waiver clause did not limit or eliminate the defendant’s tort liability. This case establishes that while
§ 895.447 prohibits construction contracts from limiting tort liability, a subrogation waiver clause that merely shifts responsibility for the payment of damages from a tortfeasor to an insurer does not violate the statute and, thus, is enforceable. Continue reading
In Kmart Corp. v. Herzog Roofing, Inc., 2018 Wisc. App. Lexis 842, the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin considered whether the economic loss doctrine barred the plaintiff’s negligence claims against the defendant roofer for damages resulting from the collapse of a roof. The Court of Appeals held that, while some of the plaintiff’s property damages were unrelated to the scope of the contract, the economic loss doctrine still applied to those damages because they were a foreseeable result of the defendant’s breach of the contract. This case establishes that in Wisconsin, the economic loss doctrine bars tort claims for damage to property unrelated to the contract if those damages were a reasonably foreseeable risk of disappointed expectations of the contract. Continue reading
Special Arbitration, a long-existing, highly efficient and cost-effective venue for resolving workers’ compensation subrogation liens, is being challenged as an appropriate forum in which to resolve lien disputes. As a result, Special Arbitration may soon be an unavailable forum for workers’ compensation insurance carriers and employers in some states.