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Stoppleworth v. Refuse Hideaway, Inc.

546 N.W.2d 870 (1996)

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Stoppleworth v. Refuse Hideaway, Inc.

Wisconsin Supreme Court

546 N.W.2d 870 (1996)

Facts

John Stoppleworth (plaintiff) brought a toxic-tort lawsuit against multiple operators of a landfill (defendants), including a liability insurer, for their negligent operation of a landfill. Stoppleworth alleged that the negligent operation of the landfill resulted in the contamination of his parents’ well and that Stoppleworth was exposed to chemical contaminants in the well water and that was a substantial factor in causing his skin cancer. The landfill operators filed a motion in limine asking that the insurance-company defendant not be mentioned to the jury and that its name be removed from the caption and the jury verdict. The landfill operators contended that it was irrelevant to the issue in the case that they were insured, and if the jury were informed, it would be prejudicial. The trial court granted the motion, and the jury was not informed about the insurance-company party. The jury returned a verdict finding that the landfill operators were negligent but that Stoppleworth’s contributory negligence was the proximate cause of his skin cancer. Stoppleworth’s claim and subsequent motion for a new trial were both denied. Stoppleworth appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed the trial court because Stoppleworth failed to prove any prejudice or detriment to substantial rights. Stoppleworth appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court and argued a statutory or constitutional right to name all parties joined in a lawsuit.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Geske, J.)

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