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White v. Benkowski

Supreme Court of Wisconsin
155 N.W.2d 74 (1967)


Facts

Virgil and Gwynneth White (the Whites) (plaintiffs) entered into a written contract with their neighbors, Paul and Ruth Benkowski (the Benkowskis) (defendants), in which they agreed to pay $3 per month and half of the cost of any future repairs and maintenance of the Benkowski’s well for use of water from the Benkowski’s well to supply their home. After the relationship between the Whites and Benkowskis soured, the Benkowskis periodically turned off the water to the Whites’ home for periods of less than an hour, causing inconvenience to the Whites, but no pecuniary loss. The Whites sued the Benkowskis for breach of contract. The trial court instructed the jury that only nominal damages could be awarded because the Whites had not proved pecuniary loss. The jury awarded the Whites $10 in compensatory damages and $2,000 in punitive damages, finding that the Benkowskis breached the contract maliciously. The trial court reduced the award to $1 in compensatory damages and no punitive damages. The Whites appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Wilkie, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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