Trials & Appeals


Trial Court

Atty. Patricia Epstein Putney recently obtained a defense verdict in Rock County on a case brought against an insurer and insurance agent for negligence and reformation.  The central dispute was whether the insureds had requested of the agent one million dollars worth of underinsured motorist coverage under their umbrella policy.  The plaintiffs sought reformation of the policy.  After a trial, the court held that the Plaintiffs had not met their burden of proof and the defendants prevailed.  (2015)

Atty. Patricia Epstein Putney was involved in defending a case in LaCrosse County involving alleged nursing negligence on a rehabilitation unit of a hospital, for a brain-injured patient.  After a two-week trial, the jury ruled in favor of the defense with a finding of no causation for the plaintiff's injuries.  (2014)

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Atty. Sheila M. Sullivan successfully defended a county department of human services in a suit brought by a former social worker alleging wrongful termination.  The social worker challenged whether the county had correctly followed the termination procedures set forth in its own civil service ordinance.  He also argued that he had not received sufficient advance notice of his impending termination and that he should have been given additional opportunities to try to get his job back after he was fired.  The Court held that the plaintiff's termination did not violate the county civil service ordinance and that the plaintiff had received adequate due process during pre-termination and post-termination proceedings. (2015)

The firm represented a police officer in a case where the officer had stopped a motorist for a traffic violation and, after a canine drug sniff and pat-down, discovered drugs and drug paraphernalia.  The motorist alleged that the officer had violated his constitutional rights by unreasonably prolonging the stop.  The Seventh Circuit agreed with Atty. Sullivan that the officer had not violated any clearly established law.  It upheld a district court decision that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity. (2014)

Attys. Patricia Epstein Putney and Sheila M. Sullivan defended a prison counselor who sat on a committee that made decisions about the eligibility of prisoners to graduate from a “boot camp” program that could earn them early release from prison.  The Seventh Circuit affirmed a decision by the Western District of Wisconsin granting summary judgment to the defense.  The court held that the committee members did not violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment by recommending termination of a prisoner from the program after he misbehaved at the graduation ceremony. (2012)

Wisconsin Supreme Court

Atty. Sheila M. Sullivan represented the third-party administrator of an ERISA health plan, on a subrogation claim.  Client had paid $64,000 for a back surgery for a Plan beneficiary after he was involved in an auto accident.  Although he asserted repeatedly during a lawsuit against the other driver that his back injury was accident-related, the plaintiff changed his story shortly after receiving the tortfeasor’s $100,000 insurance policy limits in a settlement.  Instead, he claimed that only $2,000 of medical bills were related to the accident and refused to reimburse our client for the back surgery unless it could prove up relatedness at trial.  The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed with Atty. Sullivan’s argument that, under the terms of the Plan, our client had the discretion as administrator to determine when the Plan was entitled to reimbursement, as long as that decision was not arbitrary and capricious.  Since the beneficiary himself had asserted multiple times that the back surgery was accident-related, our client's conclusion that the Plan was entitled to reimbursement was not arbitrary and capricious. (2011)

Wisconsin Court of Appeals

An appeal arose after Atty. Ward Richter successfully defended at trial a truck driver that had been involved in a motor vehicle accident.  According to the truck driver, he was unable to avoid hitting the plaintiff when she backed up her vehicle on the interstate during a snowstorm after missing her exit.  The case presented several unique evidentiary challenges, including the loss of black box evidence from the truck and the truck driver's failure to appear for trial.  Atty. Sheila Sullivan persuaded the Court of appeals to reject ten claims of error by the plaintiff and the defense verdict we obtained was affirmed. (2015)

Attys. Ward I. Richter and Sheila M. Sullivan handled a case in which the Wisconsin Court of Appeals was asked to decide the proper way to compensate two attorneys jointly representing clients under contingency fee agreements after one of those attorneys had to withdraw from representation with several cases still pending.  The attorneys had worked for several years under an agreement in which they split the fees equally, but they had no agreement in place on what to do if one of the attorneys was unable to continue representing their mutual clients.  The court agreed with Attys. Richter and Sullivan that the attorney who provided representation from start to finish and successfully concluded the cases was entitled to the contingency fees, while the withdrawing attorney's share of the fees was limited to the reasonable value of the time that he had spent on each case. (2014)

Past results are reported to provide you with an indication of the type of litigation in which we practice and does not and should not be construed to create an expectation of result in any other case as all cases are dependent upon their own unique fact situation and applicable law.

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