Farm Misses Time to File Lawsuit in Damage to Crops

July 28, 2005

A judge dismissed a central Wisconsin farm’s lawsuit seeking to recover thousands of dollars in crop losses from an insurance company because the suit was filed days after a deadline, a state appeals court ruled.

The Associated Press reported that the decision involved the one-year statute of limitations in such disputes and clarified when the “inception” of the loss began – the key factor in triggering the window of opportunity to file a lawsuit.

According to court records, Bronsteatter & Sons Inc., a farm near Merrill, reported to police on June 3, 2002, that its 12-row corn planter was vandalized and a device that regulated the flow of liquid fertilizer to two rows was damaged. It resulted in those rows being overfertilized, which killed the germinating seeds.

The farm planted more than 1,000 acres of the corn before realizing the planter was damaged, and only discovered the problem after two rows of every 12 planted were not growing, court records said. The farm believed the planter had been damaged in mid-May.

The farm had insurance with Mt. Morris Insurance Co. and filed a claim for its estimated $30,000 loss in corn yield because of the vandalism.

When the insurance company refused to pay, the farm filed a lawsuit in June 2003, claiming Morris breached its contract.

Marathon County Circuit Judge Dorothy Bain ruled that state law gave the farm one year after the “inception of the loss” to file the lawsuit and the loss began with the planting of the seeds in May, meaning the complaint was not timely filed.

In appealing, the farm argued that its inception of loss did not occur until it completed its harvest in December 2002 and the reduced yield was evident.

In upholding Bain’s decision, the 3rd District Court of Appeals said the full extent of the farm’s loss may not have been known until harvest time but the loss did not begin then.

“That Bronsteatter did not know what the actual yield from the field would be … does not mean that it was not damaged at the time of planting,” the three-judge panel said.

An attorney for the farm, Diana Schira, did not immediately return a telephone message from the Associated Press.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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