Wisconsin Lawyer: In Brief: Top 8 Recent Wisconsin Federal Court Decisions:

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    In Brief: Top 8 Recent Wisconsin Federal Court Decisions

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    Vol. 84, No. 11, November 2011

    1. Economic Loss Doctrine

    Schreiber Foods Inc. v. Wang

    Issue: Was a seller’s suit against a buyer for fraud barred by the economic loss doctrine?

    Holding: Neither of two Wisconsin-recognized exceptions to the economic loss doctrine – for fraud in the inducement or for contracts predominantly for the sale of services – was applicable to the seller’s situation and so the doctrine operated to bar the seller’s suit.

    2. Wisconsin Quasi-Contractual Remedies

    Carroll v. Stryker Corp.

    Issue: Could a plaintiff who was paid by an employer according to the terms of a written compensation agreement bring claims for quasi-contractual remedies after he was fired by the employer?

    Holding: The existence of the enforceable written contract between the plaintiff and the employer precluded recovery under quantum meruit and unjust enrichment theories of recovery.

    3. Risk Contribution Theory of Liability

    Burton v. American Cyanimid Co.

    Issue: Does an individual’s suit in federal court against lead-paint-pigment manufacturers, in reliance on the risk contribution theory, violate the manufacturers’ constitutional rights?

    Holding: The risk contribution theory and its application to lead-paint cases are neither arbitrary nor irrational and so the individual’s reliance on the theory does not violate the manufacturers’ due process rights. The risk contribution theory does not impose retroactive liability or render innocent conduct tortious but modifies the manner in which a plaintiff may prove his or her case.

    4. “Actual Innocence” and Tort Liability

    Alswager v. Rocky Mountain Instrumental Labs. Inc.

    Issue: Was a criminal defendant who brought suit against a potential expert witness for errors allegedly committed by the witness required to prove that he was actually innocent of the crime for which he was convicted in the underlying criminal trial?

    Holding: Because it is not the role of federal courts to create Wisconsin common law, the federal district court did not extend the actual innocence rule for criminal defendants outside of the legal malpractice context to an expert witness.

    5. Wisconsin Consumer Act

    Parent v. Citibank (South Dakota) N.A.

    Issue: Did Wisconsin Consumer Act (WCA) provisions apply to a dispute between a married couple and their credit card issuer concerning billings arising from a transaction between the couple’s business and a customer?

    Holding: The couple could proceed under the WCA for violations alleged to have occurred in relation to “consumer” transactions.

    6. Wisconsin Statutory Misrepresentation

    Thermal Design Inc. v. American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, & Air-Conditioning Engineers Inc.

    Issue: Did the Wisconsin Deceptive Trade Practices Act (WDTPA) apply to alleged misrepresentations made in a manual containing energy efficiency guidelines?

    Holding: The plaintiff manufacturer could not proceed under the WDTPA because it was not able to establish a link between the transactions covered by the WDTPA and the alleged false statements.

    7. Wisconsin Statutory Misappropriation

    Stayart v. Google Inc.; Stayart v. Yahoo! Inc.

    Issue: Did an individual have a cause of action against Google or Yahoo! based on the search engines returning what she considered to be negative results in conjunction with her name?

    Holding: The plaintiff does not have a commercial interest in her own name, thus barring suit against the companies; further, she did not allege facts sufficient to show that Google profited from use of her name.

    8. Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law

    Girl Scouts of Manitou Council v. Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. Inc.

    Issue: Does the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law (WFDL) apply to the business relationship between a nonprofit organization and one of its member councils?

    Holding: The council is a “dealer” under the WFDL, and application of the WFDL does not impinge on the nonprofit organization’s First Amendment rights.