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Excusable Neglect- Erroneous Exercise of Discretion

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//June 10, 2024//

Excusable Neglect- Erroneous Exercise of Discretion

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//June 10, 2024//

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WI Court of Appeals – District III

Case Name: Flambeau Hydro, LLC v. Park Falls Industrial Management, LLC

Case No.: 2022AP001515

Officials: Stark, P.J., Hruz and Gill, JJ.

Focus: Excusable Neglect- Erroneous Exercise of Discretion

The circuit court granted a default judgment in favor of Flambeau Hydro because Park Falls Industrial Management (Niagara) failed to timely answer the complaint. Niagara’s motion to enlarge the time to answer was denied as the court found no excusable neglect. Excusable neglect requires conduct that might have been expected from a reasonably prudent person under similar circumstances, not merely neglect, carelessness, or inattentiveness. The court determined Niagara did not provide adequate reasons for its delay in responding.

Niagara filed a motion to reconsider and vacate the default judgment under WIS. STAT. § 806.07(1)(h), which allows for relief from judgment in extraordinary circumstances. The circuit court denied this motion, finding no extraordinary circumstances that would justify vacating the judgment. The court considered several factors, including the deliberate and well-informed choice of Niagara in its actions, the lack of judicial consideration on the merits of the case, and whether there were intervening circumstances making it inequitable to grant relief.

The decisions were reviewed under the erroneous exercise of discretion standard. The appellate court upheld the circuit court’s findings, noting that the court applied the correct legal standards and had a reasonable basis for its decisions. The court’s emphasis on the need for finality of judgments and fairness in resolving disputes was upheld, and Niagara’s arguments were found insufficient to overturn the decisions.

Affirmed.

Decided 06/04/24 

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