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Statutory Interpretation – Trespasser Immunity

WI Supreme Court

Case Name: David Stroede v. Society Insurance and Railroad Station, LLC,

Case No.: 2021 WI 43

Focus: Statutory Interpretation – Trespasser Immunity

The focus of this case is Wis. Stat. § 895.529 (2017-18), which immunizes and protects a “possessor of real property” from claims of trespassers for certain conduct. Under § 895.529(1)(a), a “[p]ossessor of real property” is defined as an “owner, lessee, tenant, or other lawful occupant of real property.” We must determine whether Jacob Tetting’s presence in a bar meets that definition.

The circuit court denied summary judgment to Tetting and to his insurer, West Bend Mutual, concluding that Tetting did not fit within the definition of a “[p]ossessor of real property” in Wis. Stat. § 895.529(1)(a). Specifically, the circuit court concluded that Tetting was not an “other lawful occupant of real property.” The court of appeals reversed the circuit court’s decision, relying on dictionary definitions of “occupant” to determine that Tetting was an “other lawful occupant” and consequently entitled to immunity.

We reverse the decision of the court of appeals because Tetting was not an “other lawful occupant of real property” under Wis. Stat. § 895.529. Accordingly, we uphold the circuit court’s denial of both Tetting and West Bend Mutual’s motions for summary judgment and remand the case for further proceedings.

Reversed and remanded

Concur:

Dissent: REBECCA GRASSL BRADLEY, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
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Derek A Hawkins is Associate Corporate Counsel, IP at Amazon.

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