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Ramsden v. Farm Credit Services of North Central Wisconsin ACA

Wisconsin Court of Appeals
590 N.W.2d 1 (1998)


Facts

Triple L Dairy owned a property in Wisconsin on which it operated a dairy farm. When its cattle began getting sick, Triple L Dairy complained to its creditor, Farm Credit Services of North Central Wisconsin ACA (FCS) (defendant). Thomas Hass (defendant) was an agent of both Agribank (defendant), which had financed Triple L’s purchase, and FCS. After investigating Triple L Dairy’s complaint, Agribank, FCS, and Hass learned that an underground gasoline storage tank on the farm was leaking. The leakage had contaminated the property’s soil and groundwater. The Department of Natural Resources ordered Agribank to remove the oil tank and clean up the contamination. Agribank removed the tank but failed to decontaminate the property. Agribank auctioned the property as a dairy farm, with Hass acting as auctioneer. Mark, Raelynn, and Milton Ramsden (plaintiffs) expressed interest in buying the property. Hass told them that Agribank would pay for any cleanup required by the oil tank’s contamination. He additionally represented that the property was suitable for a dairy farm and that there was plenty of good, clean drinking water. Hass did not inform the Ramsdens that the groundwater was contaminated or that Triple L Dairy’s cattle had died. The Ramsdens bought the property. Within days of moving their cattle to the property, the cattle began to get sick, Mark Ramsden, too, became ill. The Ramsdens had water samples taken and learned that the water was contaminated with benzene. Eventually, 186 cows died of benzene poisoning. The Ramsdens sued Agribank, FCS, and Hass. Hass filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that he could not be held liable for misrepresentations because he made them as an agent. The trial court granted his motion. The Ramsdens appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Roggensack, J.)

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