Michigan Law Applied in Wisconsin Wrongful Death Lawsuit

May 9, 2013

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has ruled that another state’s laws must be applied to a Wisconsin wrongful death lawsuit.

The lawsuit stems from a 2009 incident that occurred in Michigan’s Hiawatha National Forest. A group of Wisconsin residents were riding snowmobiles through the forest when a person in their party collided with a rider from another group at a trail intersection. The victim suffered a massive head injury that claimed his life.

The victim’s wife filed a wrongful death suit in Wisconsin against the members of the other group, alleging they were negligent in how they operated their snow machines on the day of the incident. Since the accident occurred in Michigan, the plaintiff moved that Michigan’s wrongful death statute should be utilized in the case.

Wisconsin’s wrongful death statute establishes a $350,000 limit on loss of companionship damages, whereas Michigan’s statute does not establish any such limit.

The State Bar of Wisconsin explained that the County Circuit Court ruled that Wisconsin law should be utilized. However, an appeals court panel ruled that Wisconsin law only applies to deaths that occur within the state. The panel went on to explain Wisconsin law allows for other state regulations to be applied though if they establish damages and remedies, which the Michigan Wrongful Death statute was deemed to do.

The Appleton personal injury attorneys with Sigman, Janssen, Sewall, Pitz & Burkham are hopeful a decision in the case brings closure to the family of the victim.