WisBar News: Supreme Court Accepts Three Cases, Won’t Hear Law Firm Marketing Case Brought by Habush and Rottier :

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  • WisBar News
    May
    24
    2013

    Supreme Court Accepts Three Cases, Won’t Hear Law Firm Marketing Case Brought by Habush and Rottier 

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    May 24, 2013 – The Wisconsin Supreme Court today accepted three new cases, including one involving the “stacking” of auto insurance policies, but denied review of a dispute between two law firms.

    The auto insurance case “could resolve apparent tension between statutes regulating insurance coverage and affect more than a dozen pending cases and other cases still being filed,” according to summaries from the court’s information officers.

    The case, Belding v. Demoulin, 2012AP829, stems from a 2009 auto accident involving an uninsured drunk driver, who struck the Ford Ranger Ronald Belding was driving. Ronald and Antoinette Belding had insurance policies with State Farm Auto Insurance.

    One policy insured the Ford Ranger. Another policy insured a second family vehicle. Both covered accidents with uninsured drivers. State Farm paid $100,000 for Ronald Belding’s injuries, the per person policy limit for coverage on the Ford Ranger policy.

    However, the Beldings sought to “stack” the other policy. Stacking allows insureds with multiple cars to add together or “stack” uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM) policies one when recovery from one policy alone would be inadequate.

    State Farm denied coverage, arguing that Ronald could not add UM coverage amounts from a policy that did not list the vehicle involved in the accident, a so-called “drive other car” exclusion. However, a state appeals court ruled that this exclusion was illegal.

    As of 2011, auto insurers can now include anti-stacking provisions within policies (seeAuto Insurance Changes: New Law Rolls Back Coverage Limits and Prevents Stacking”). However, anti-stacking provisions were prohibited under 2009 law.

    The supreme court is expected to decide whether the “drive other car” exclusion was prohibited by law in effect when the accident occurred.

    Betz v. Diamond Jim’s Auto Sales, 2012AP183

    This case arises from a lawsuit over the sale of a defective used car, where the parties ultimately reached a settlement agreement without their attorneys’ knowledge. This raised questions from the plaintiff’s attorney, Vince Megna, about the enforceability of the agreement and the attorney’s ability to recover fees under fee-shifting statutes.

    An appeals court ruled that in cases alleging violations of fee-shifting statutes that create attorney fee claims, parties cannot settle cases if they have hired a lawyer to pursue the claim. Megna’s retainer agreement with plaintiff Randy Betz set out his right to pursue attorney fees against the car dealer under any settlement agreement.

    The supreme court will examine the potential conflict between fee-shifting statutes and the public policy right of parties to settle disputes. The court will also decide whether the settlement agreement was valid and released the car dealer from paying Megna’s fees.

    Attorney’s Title Guaranty Fund v. Town Bank, 2011AP2774

    This case involves two issues arising from competing efforts by two banks to recover assets from the same borrower – a Milwaukee landlord who failed to pay back loans, filed for bankruptcy and became entangled in a legal battle with his own lawyer.

    Town Bank obtained a $1.6 million judgment against Timothy Brophy in 2006. Subsequently, Brophy assigned an interest in legal malpractice claims to Heartland Corp. as security for a loan totaling nearly $223,000.

    After the legal malpractice case settled, Town Bank and Heartland Corp. claimed a priority interest in the funds. A circuit court ruled that Town Bank had priority.

    On appeal, Heartland argued that Town Bank’s priority ceased when it failed to file notice of a supplemental proceeding and order with the clerk of court. However, an appeals court disagreed and upheld the lower court’s ruling for Town Bank.

    The supreme court is expected to decide: 1) whether an enforceable creditors lien attaches to personal property acquired after a Wis. Stat. ch. 816 supplementary proceeding has been held; 2) whether Town Banks creditor’s lien is enforceable because notice of supplemental proceeding was not filed with the court clerk.

    Summaries derived from full summaries posted at www.wicourts.gov.

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