Late last year, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals issued a decision that was good news for plaintiffs but bad news for insurers in Westmas v. Selective Ins. Co., 2016 WI App 92, 372 Wis. 2d 683, 889 N.W.2d 178. The case involved a death caused by a tree limb that fell on plaintiff’s wife who was walking on a shoreline path. The limb had been trimmed by an independent contractor hired by the property owner. The circuit court granted summary judgment to the tree-trimming contractor based on Wisconsin’s recreational immunity statute. The Court of Appeals reversed in a 3-0 decision and held that the tree-trimmer was not an agent of the owner nor was the tree-trimmer an occupier of the land. The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently decided to review the Court of Appeals decision.
The Supreme Court’s review suggests it may disagree with the Court of Appeals’ holding on the meaning of “agent of an owner” as used in the recreational immunity statute, Wis. Stat. § 895.52. The parties are currently briefing the appeal and the Court will likely hold argument this fall. Cade Law Group will follow the progress of the case and its impact on premises liability claims in this state.