October Decisions from the Wisconsin Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals released about three dozen decisions last week. As expected, the vast majority affirmed the Circuit Court’s ruling. Here are the five exceptions:

Kenosha Cemetery Association v. Janet & Jeffrey Depaoli – The plaintiff proved the defendant had converted $240,000 for her own use, and that her husband was reasonably responsible due to having received the benefit for $90,000 of that amount. The Circuit Court did not enter judgment as joint and several on the $90,000, so the judgment as it read could entitle the plaintiff to collect the $90,000 from each defendant. The Court of Appeals remanded for the lower court to correct the judgment.

Cole R. Johnson v. Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company – Plaintiffs were in a major car accident in Wisconsin in a vehicle with Montana auto insurance. The insurance policy provided for $25,000/$50,000 in underinsured motorist benefits, but had a clause bumping the limits up when the vehicle is being driven in another state to the minimum requirements in that state. The Circuit Court applied the Wisconsin law with minimums for liability coverage, but the Court of Appeals pointed out that Wisconsin has no requirement as to underinsured coverage and that the minimums law applied only to in-state insurers anyway, and thus reversed.

State v. Craig F. Ahlman – Defendant entered a guilty plea for possession of child pornography, but there was nothing on the record establishing the factual basis that the photos satisfied the requirements to be “pornography.” The State never offered the photos into evidence, the Circuit Court never saw them, and no (objective) description of the photos were ever put on the record. All that was on the record were the State’s conclusive descriptions of them (such as describing young females as being in “a sexualized pose”). The Court of Appeals held that the court should have either viewed the images or elicited a highly detailed description of the images in order to law the factual basis that the photos had “lewd exhibition of intimate parts” or “sexually explicit conduct” (which, it sounds the Court of Appeals doubted they did).

Green Bay Professional Police Association v. City of Green Bay – The lower court granted a writ of mandamus pertaining to health insurance provisions of expired collective bargaining agreements. The Court of Appeals held the court failed to address any of the four requirements for mandamus relief, and that petitioners certainly did not establish the two elements of substantial financial damages and lack of any other adequate remedy at law.

State v. Mark Alan Sperber – This case involved a hit and run resulting in homicide that went to jury trial. The jury twice asked for clarification as to when the defendant would have had to know about the accident in order to be guilty.  The Circuit Court told the jury to re-read the jury instruction with the elements — one of them being that the defendant knew about the accident, but the instruction still did not give any indication as to when the knowledge must’ve been acquired. The Court of Appeals held this was a question of law that the Circuit Court should have answered for the jury, and that the failure to do so resulted in the real controversy not having been fully tried.