Nov. 9, 2015 – The Wisconsin Supreme Court may decide whether a hot air balloon business that donated free, tethered hot air balloon rides during a charity event is immune from a lawsuit by a person injured from a runaway hot air balloon.
The case, Roberts v. T.H.E. Ins., is just one of 12 cases the state supreme court recently accepted for review (see summaries below). Sundog Ballooning LLC is one of the defendants seeking immunity under Wisconsin’s recreational immunity statute.
Sundog agreed to set up the free hot air balloon rides at a charity event in Beaver Dam, tethering a balloon to two trees and a large truck parked on the property of a private organization. The lines snapped, and the runaway balloon struck Patti Roberts.
In the subsequent lawsuit, Sundog argued for immunity under Wis. Stat. section 895.52, which generally grants immunity from lawsuits to property owners who allow recreational activities on the property, including non-owners who occupy the property.
The circuit court dismissed the case on summary judgment, concluding that Sundog was immune from suit. An appeals court affirmed, concluding that Sundog had recreational immunity because Sundog occupied the land where the injury occurred.
Roberts argues that the recreational immunity statute is too broad, as interpreted by the court of appeals, allowing mere “users” of land to be considered “owners.” A supreme court decision is expected to clarify the scope of protections under the immunity statute.
State v. Sulla: This case presents a number of issues related to “read-in charges” that were considered at sentencing despite a no contest plea agreement. The defendant argues that he is entitled to withdraw his plea because he did not understand that sentencing judges could consider “read-in” offenses in rendering the sentence.
State v. Salinas: This case examines the circumstances under which multiple crimes may be joined in one trial. The state charged defendant Luis Salinas with victim intimidation, based on jail phone recordings, and joined those charges with sexual assault charges. Salinas, found guilty, says the charges were improperly joined.
State v. Lagrone: The primary question in this case is whether the trial court erred by not conducting a colloquy at the second phase of a not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect proceeding to ascertain whether the defendant was knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waiving his right to testify.
State v. Tourville: This case examines whether the state breached a plea agreement by recommending consecutive sentences, and whether there was a sufficient factual basis to accept of guilty plea to a theft charge.
State v. Jackson: This homicide case examines the “inevitable discovery doctrine,” which provides that “evidence obtained during a search which is tainted by some illegal act may be admissible if the tainted evidence would have been inevitably discovered by lawful means.” An appeals court ruled that it was error to suppress a bloody knife found at the defendant’s home even though police obtained it through illegal questioning.
Marks v. Houston Casualty Co.: The court will review a “duty to defend” case in which the appeals court ruled that a professional trustee who allegedly invested trust funds in his own company was not covered by a professional liability insurance policy covering trustee error, and thus the insurance company had no duty to defend the trustee.
Sorenson v. Batchelder: This case calls for an interpretation of the service requirements involving claims against the state under Wis. Stat. section 893.82, which says that service “shall be served upon the attorney general at his or her office in the Capitol by certified mail.” The plaintiff personally served the attorney general.
John Doe 56 v. Mayo Clinic Health System-EC: This case examines time limits for filing medical malpractice claims against a pediatrician who allegedly assaulted minor patients who did not realize at the time their genitals were examined that the examinations were not purely medical in nature.
Attic Angel Prairie Point v. City of Madison: This tax case examines whether case law developed to apply to a particular statute – one providing a tax exemption for “benevolent retirement homes for the aged” – applies to an amended version.
Fontana Builders v. Assurance Co. of America: This case involves the interpretation of language in an insurance policy to determine what coverage may apply after a fire substantially damaged a house that was under construction.
Prince Corp. v. Vandenberg: This case involves a complicated garnishment proceeding that arose when four tenants, each owning a one-fourth interest in land, sought to sell the property but one had numerous unpaid judgments and tax liens against the property. A state appeals court ruled that tax liens trump money judgments.
Brief summaries derived from full summaries posted on the Wisconsin Court System website, www.wicourts.gov