Milwaukee Personal Injury Lawyers Take State of Wisconsin to the Supreme Court
On behalf of Milwaukee personal injury attorney Merrick Domnitz of Domnitz & Domnitz, S.C. posted in Firm News on Monday, March 15, 2010.
On Tuesday, March 9, 2010, Attorney Merrick R. Domnitz appeared in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court on behalf of Michael Pries, who was injured in an accident that occurred at State Fair Park. The premises liability personal injury case had originally been tried to a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge who rendered a verdict in favor of Mr. Pries. The original trial was handled for Domnitz & Skemp by Attorney Anthony J. Skemp.
Mr. Pries was injured while part of a work team disassembling horse stalls in a barn after the State Fair. Each stall was constructed of four heavy (200 pounds) steel sections normally chained to the back wall of the barn for safety reasons. The stall sections were held to one another by pins inserted into the tops of the joints where the sections came together. After the safety chains had been removed a team supervisor jumped up onto a stall section and shook it in an attempt to separate the sections, causing an entire row of stalls to collapse. One of the stall sections landed on Pries and broke his foot.
The actions of the supervisor were clearly negligent and the issue before the Supreme Court was whether the State was entitled to immunity under Wisconsin law. Domnitz argued that because the written instructions for disassembly indicated that a spotter should hold onto any stall section being disassembled to prevent it from falling, the supervisor had violated a “ministerial duty” which, under Wisconsin law, does not entitle him to immunity. In addition, the danger from disassembling the stalls with the safety chains removed created a known present danger and negated the supervisor’s claim of immunity.
Domnitz & Skemp had prevailed at the Court of Appeals and the State chose to file a petition for appeal with the Supreme Court of Wisconsin. Domnitz argued that it was time for the Court to seriously consider clarifying Wisconsin law in this area by correcting the course Wisconsin case law had followed for the past 25 years due to a misinterpretation of the decision which reinstated a citizen’s right to sue a governmental agency for negligence, decided in 1962. In the years that followed, the legislature passed statutes describing specific procedural steps which need to be followed in order to sue a governmental body for the negligence of a government employee. These statutes do not indicate a return to a state of immunity for governmental entities. Since that time, Domnitz argued, governments (City, County, and State) have accepted financial responsibility for the negligence of their employees and therefore immunizing the employees was no longer consistent with the rest of Wisconsin law.
In short, Domnitz argued that when a person suffers a personal injury due to the negligent acts or omissions of a government employee acting within the scope of his employment, no difference should exist in the injured person’s rights of recovery. “Negligence is negligence,” Domnitz said, “and who commits the act should not determine a citizen’s right to recover for personal injuries.”
A decision is expected before summer.
If you need a Milwaukee personal injury attorney, contact Domnitz of Domnitz & Domnitz, S.C. for a free consultation.