Wisconsin Appeals Court Upholds $39M Verdict in Parking Garage Death

July 13, 2017

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has upheld a $39 million jury verdict against the builder of a Milwaukee parking garage where a 15-year-old boy was killed in 2010 when a concrete slab fell.

A 13-ton panel that fell in a city-owned parking garage killed Jared Kellner and injured two other people. The parking garage was constructed in the late 1980’s. Advanced Cast Stone was hired by the county to manufacture and install decorative concrete panels hung on the outside of the structure. The panels were designed by an engineering firm. Upon investigation, it was determined that the slab that fell was not manufactured or installed according to the engineering firm’s specifications.

Jurors awarded compensatory and punitive damages to Kellner, the people injured, and Milwaukee County.

ACS, along with its insurers, appealed the verdict, alleging the plaintiff’s claims were barred by time statute of limitations. The company also argued that there were many erroneous evidentiary rulings made during trial and that there was insufficient evidence to support certain damages.

Liberty Insurance argued against the trial court’s finding of coverage as a matter of law and argued that it had not breached its duty to defend and duty of good faith and fair dealing, thereby requiring it to be responsible for the entire verdict amount.

The court said Tuesday that Liberty Insurance is not responsible for the full amount levied against ACS. A lower court had said Liberty “breached its duty” to defend ACS and needed to pay the full award.

The appeals court disagreed and said the insurer is responsible only for the limit in ACS’s policy, which was $10 million at the time ($1 million Commercial General Liability policy limit and $9 million excess policy limit); however, the amount of damages awarded to Milwaukee County will be revised, since they are subject to the “your work” exclusion.

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