Articles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court

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A right to visibility of private property from a public road is not a cognizable right giving rise to a protected property interest. Adams Outdoor Advertising Limited Partnership brought a takings claim against the City of Madison, asserting that its property was taken when the City constructed a pedestrian bridge over the Beltline Highway that blocked the visibility from the highway of the west-facing side of Adams’ billboard. The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the City, concluding that Adams failed to demonstrate a cognizable right underlying its asserted protected property interest. On appeal to the Supreme Court, Adams argued that a taking occurred because the City deprived it of all economically beneficial use of the west-facing side of its billboard. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Adams’ taking claim failed. View "Adams Outdoor Advertising Limited Partnership v. City of Madison" on Justia Law

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The short-term rentals of Defendants’ property did not constitute “commercial activity” under the restrictive covenant that encumbered its property. Defendants purchased property in a subdivision and began renting it to vacationers on both short-term and long-term bases. Several neighboring property owners brought suit, claiming that a restrictive covenant that encumbered all lots in the subdivision precluded short-term rentals of property. The circuit court ruled in favor of Plaintiffs and enjoined Defendants from further short-term rentals. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the term “commercial activity” in the restrictive covenant is ambiguous; and (2) as narrowly interpreted by the Court, the term “commercial activity” does not prelude either short-term or long-term rentals of Defendants’ property. View "Forshee v. Neuschwander" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the Building Permit Rule (Rule) extended to land identified in a building permit application as part of a project upon which no actual construction was planned. Golden Sands Diary, LLC obtained a building permit for seven farm structures. Its building permit application identified the building site as 100 acres and its total acreage as 6,388 acres, on which it sought to operate a farm. After Golden Sands filed its building permit application, the Town of Saratoga enacted a zoning ordinance seeking to prohibit agricultural uses such as those proposed by Golden Sands. Golden Sands argued that the Rule extended to all the land identified in its building permit application, and therefore, it had a vested right to use all of the property for agricultural purposes. The circuit court concluded that the Rule extends to all land identified in a building permit application. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Rule applies only to building structures and not to use of land. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Rule extends to all land specifically identified in a building permit application; and (2) therefore, Golden Sands had a vested right to use all of the property for agricultural purposes. View "Golden Sands Dairy LLC v. Town of Saratoga" on Justia Law

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When a foreclosure action brought on a borrower’s default on a note has been dismissed with prejudice, and the lender has not validly accelerated payment of the amount due under the note, claim preclusion does not bar the lender from bringing a subsequent foreclosure action based upon the borrower’s continuing default on the same note. After Borrower defaulted on a note, Lender filed suit seeking to foreclose on the property securing the note. The circuit court determined that Lender failed to present sufficient evidence to prevail in its foreclosure action and dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice. Later, Bank, the entity servicing Borrower's loan, sent Borrower a notice of intent to accelerate payment of the note. Borrower did not cure his default, and Bank filed a complaint initiating the instant lawsuit. Borrower moved to dismiss, arguing that the lawsuit was barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion. The circuit court did not apply claim preclusion to any default alleged to have occurred after judgment was entered in the earlier lawsuit. The Supreme Court affirmed this conclusion, holding that claim preclusion did not bar the second lawsuit because the lawsuit alleged new facts giving rise to a new and subsequent default and a different transaction than that presented in the first foreclosure action. View "Federal National Mortgage Ass’n v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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The classification of real property for tax purposes is based on the actual use of the property, and an injunction prohibiting agricultural use of a residentially-zoned property, which is based on a restrictive covenant, does not control the property’s tax assessment classification. However, the record before the Board in this case contained no evidence that the property was used agriculturally within the meaning of Wisconsin tax law. Donald Thoma and Polk Properties LLC (collectively, Thoma) challenged the Village of Slinger’s 2014 property tax assessment for land Thoma attempted to develop into a residential subdivision. The property previously operated as a farm and received an agricultural classification for tax assessment purposes. Thoma and the Village later entered into an agreement that contained a restrictive covenant prohibiting Thoma from using the land for agriculture. The Village then obtained an injunction prohibiting any agricultural use on the property. The Board voted to uphold the assessor’s assessment, which the assessor reached by changing the use classification from agricultural to residential. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board’s decision upholding the tax assessment was lawful and supported by a reasonable view of the evidence; and (2) the circuit court did not err in denying Thoma’s request to vacate the original order. View "Thoma v. Village of Slinger" on Justia Law

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At issue in this foreclosure case was whether presentment by a party’s attorney of an original, wet-ink note endorsed in blank is admissible into evidence and enforceable against the borrower without further proof that the holder had possession at the time the foreclosure action was filed. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ summary disposition reversing the circuit court’s foreclosure judgment against Defendant in favor of Bank. Bank produced a note at trial, and the circuit court concluded it was the original note executed by the borrower. The court of appeals concluded that the issue of possession of the original note had to be proven at trial and that Bank was required to present testimony from a witness with personal knowledge who could verify possession of the note by Bank up to the moment Bank presented the note to the circuit court. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that presentment to the trier of fact in a mortgage foreclosure proceeding of the original, wet-ink note endorsed in blank establishes the holder’s possession and entitles the holder to enforce the note. View "Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. v. Wuensch" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the City of Oshkosh in this action challenging the special assessment imposed by the City following the reconfiguration of a traditional traffic light intersection into a roundabout. The Court held (1) the term “special benefits” in Wisconsin’s eminent domain statute has the same meaning in Wisconsin’s special assessment statute, and the City’s admission that special benefits are non-existent in the context of an earlier eminent domain proceeding constitutes relevant evidence in a later challenge to the special assessment; and (2) the court of appeals erred in concluding that Plaintiff failed to overcome the presumption of correctness afforded the City’s special assessment and to establish sufficient genuine issues of material fact. The Court remanded the case to the circuit court for a trial. View "CED Properties, LLC v. City of Oshkosh" on Justia Law

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Wis. Stat. 846.165 does not require a circuit court to make a determination of a guaranty credit at the time a foreclosure sale is confirmed. Further, when an action for foreclosure against a mortgagor and an action for a money judgment on a guaranty are brought in the same proceeding, the circuit court may decide the amount of a credit to be applied to a judgment on a guaranty either at the time the sale is confirmed or at another time. Petitioner sought review of the court of appeals' decision directing that the circuit court apply a credit of $2.25 million to a money judgment entered against Petitioner as a guarantor of a loan. Petitioner argued that the court of appeals erroneously limited the credit to the amount of the winning bid at the sheriff’s sale, thus precluding the circuit court from hearing evidence of the fair value of the property after the confirmation of sale. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court properly decoupled the confirmation of sale from the determination of the guaranty credit; and (2) the stipulation in this case did not establish that the amount of the winning bid at the sheriff’s sale shall be the sole credit toward the money judgment against Petitioner. View "Horizon Bank, National Ass’n v. Marshalls Point Retreat LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court’s judgment entered in favor of Plaintiffs regarding their asserted right to install a pier and to access the Sailor Creek Flowage directly from their shoreline property. Defendants, who owned the waterbed of the Flowage where Plaintiffs’ property met the water, appealed, arguing that the presence of navigable water over their property did not affect their right to prohibit Plaintiffs from installing a pier into or over the portion of the waterbed of the Flowage that Plaintiffs owned. The Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiffs’ private property rights are not sufficient to place a pier into or over the waterbed of the Flowage without Defendants’ permission based on the rights attendant to their shoreline property; (2) the public trust doctrine conveys no private property rights, regardless of the presence of navigable water; and (3) as long as Plaintiffs are using the flowage waters for purposes consistent with the public trust doctrine, their own property rights are sufficient to access and exit the Flowage directly from their shoreline property. View "Movrich v. Lobermeier" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the court of appeals erred in concluding that the City of Milwaukee complied with Wis. Stat. 70.32(1) in its tax assessment of property owned by Metropolitan Associates. Also on appeal, Metropolitan asked the Supreme Court to substitute the court’s judgment for the circuit court’s judgment regarding the credibility of witnesses and the relative weights to assign to various pieces of evidence. The Supreme Court held (1) the City’s assessment of Metropolitan’s property complied with the statute; (2) the circuit court’s findings of fact regarding the reliability of respective appraisals were not clearly erroneous; and (3) the circuit court’s findings were sufficient to support its determination regardless of whether the presumption of correctness was employed. View "Metropolitan Associates v. City of Milwaukee" on Justia Law