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In an earlier post, we discussed when the relationship between two parties qualifies as a protected dealership under the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law and how the statute may apply to an eclectic mix of commercial arrangements. For a WFDL-protected dealership to exist, the purported dealer must demonstrate that its dealership is “situated in” the state. Wis. Stat. § 135.02(2). The statute offers no definition or test for when a dealership is situated in Wisconsin. While it is fairly simple
Continue Reading The Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law Enters Its 50th Year: Situated in Wisconsin

Attorney Jeff Mandell Receives Wisconsin and Nationwide Attention on Redistricting and Wisconsin Legislative Maps
Stafford Rosenbaum Partner Jeff Mandell made an appearance on the November 19, 2023 edition of UpFront, a Wisconsin TV broadcast produced by ABC on Sunday mornings. He is part of the counsel team leading oral arguments before the Wisconsin Supreme Court on November 21 to argue that the state’s legislative maps violate state constitutional standards and to request redistricting in time for the 2024 elections.
Continue Reading Attorney Jeff Mandell in the Media Spotlight Surrounding Wisconsin Redistricting

As explained in an earlier post, the existence of a “contract or agreement, either expressed or implied, whether oral or written” is necessary for a relationship to be protected by the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law. In most business relationships, a written, expressed contract serves as the foundation for the parties’ dealings, setting forth the parties’ respective rights and responsibilities. Reflecting Wisconsin’s longstanding commitment to the freedom of contract, more often than not, Wisconsin courts will hold commercial parties
Continue Reading The Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law Enters Its 50th Year: Contracting Around the WFDL

The Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law provides that a grantor cannot “terminate, cancel, fail to renew, or substantially change the competitive circumstances” of a protected dealership without providing good cause, proper notice, and an opportunity to cure. Wis. Stat. §§ 135.03-.04. Most adverse actions are easy to identify: a phone call terminating the relationship, a letter stating that a certain product line would no longer be offered to the dealer, or a notice that the dealership will not
Continue Reading The Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law Enters Its 50th Year: Adverse Actions

Earlier in Stafford Rosenbaum’s Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law blog series, we explained that the WFDL extends good-cause, notice, and opportunity-to-cure protections to an extraordinarily diverse set of businesses, including beauty product wholesalers, lawn and farm equipment distributors, and even municipal contractors. That said, the statute and case law have created specific and limited exceptions to the range of businesses that can claim protection under the WFDL.

Motor Vehicle Dealerships

Section 135.07 provides that the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law
Continue Reading The Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law Enters Its 50th Year: Excluded Relationships

Last year, we wrote about a bi-partisan group of state senators and members of the state assembly introducing legislation to regulate third-party food delivery services in Wisconsin. Although that legislation stalled, an expanded group of state legislators has re-introduced a similar bill with some slight modifications.

The 2023 proposed legislation seeks to create three requirements for third-party food delivery services:

First, third-party food delivery services must provide a “publicly accessible process” for restaurants to remove themselves from being listed
Continue Reading New Food Delivery Service Regulation on the Horizon?

The Democratic Party of Illinois may not intervene in a suit relating to mail-in voting, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The case, Bost v. Illinois State Board of Elections, arose when Congressman Michael Bost and two voters challenged an Illinois law that permits completed mail-in ballots to be counted as long as they are sent on or before election day and are received within two weeks after election day. ___ F.4th ____, 2023
Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Reiterates the Low Bar for Intervention in Voting-rights Litigation

The Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law (WFDL), Wis. Stats. § 135.01 et seq., is triggered only when a grantor takes or plans to take an action that has considerable impact on the relationship with its dealer. Whether that action is termination, cancellation, non-renewal, or substantially changing the competitive circumstances of the relationship, needless to say, the stakes are generally very high for the dealer. It is thus no surprise that the statute affords protected dealers significant remedies to redress the
Continue Reading The Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law Enters Its 50th Year: Remedies

In 5 Walworth, LLC v. Engerman Contracting, Inc., 2023 WI 51, the Wisconsin Supreme Court addressed insurance coverage for damages allegedly caused by the deficient construction of an inground swimming pool. The pool cracked, causing water to leak into and destabilize the surrounding soil. Attempts were made to fix the cracks, but ultimately the entire pool structure had to be demolished and replaced. The homeowner then sued the general contractor who constructed the defective pool and its two insurers.
Continue Reading Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules Integrated Systems Analysis Does Not Apply to Evaluating Insurance Coverage Under a CGL Policy

The protections conferred by the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law extend beyond good cause. The WFDL expressly requires that a grantor issue a dealer proper notice with an opportunity to cure prior to terminating, not renewing, cancelling, or substantially changing the dealership. As discussed in our previous post, what constitutes proper notice turns, in part, on the underlying issues that motivate the grantor’s effort to change or discontinue relations with the dealer. But regardless, in most circumstances, a grantor
Continue Reading The Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law Enters Its 50th Year: Notice and Cure

Good cause is the core protection provided by the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law. In a dealership relationship covered by the WFDL (see our previous blog post that defines a dealership as it pertains to the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law), the grantor cannot terminate, fail to renew, cancel, or substantially change the competitive circumstances of the relationship without “good cause” (as well as proper notice and an opportunity to cure, which we’ll address in a future post). There are
Continue Reading The Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law Enters Its 50th Year: What is Good Cause?

There are many reasons for small and family business owners to consider a marital property agreement. This post will briefly explain Wisconsin law as to ownership of property at death and divorce without a marital property agreement and why executing a marital property agreement can alter those laws to protect business interests and simplify transfer of ownership upon death.

In Wisconsin, spouses are entitled to certain rights during marriage and at death. As Wisconsin is a community property state,
Continue Reading You Do Not Have to Sign your Life Away: A Brief Primer on the Benefits of Marital Property Agreements

It’s May 1st, which means it’s the beginning of construction safety week. It’s also the day those of us living in Wisconsin can begin to believe we won’t see snow again for at least a few months. And while we’re all looking forward to warmer days ahead, we also have to prepare for days that are too hot – and too many of those “too hot” days. Climate models indicate that Wisconsin is going to face many more days
Continue Reading Keeping Construction Workers Safe in the Face of Climate Change and Extreme Heat

The Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law is a robust trade law that prohibits “grantors” from terminating, failing to renew, cancelling, or substantially changing “dealerships” without good cause, proper notice, and an opportunity to cure. With a few select exceptions, the WFDL applies generally, and a wide range of businesses have successfully claimed protection under the statute, including beauty product wholesalers, lawn and farm implement distributors, and even municipal golf professionals. To be considered a protected “dealership,” a business must demonstrate
Continue Reading The Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law Enters Its 50th Year: What Is a Dealership?

On April 5, 1974, Governor Patrick Lucey signed the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law into law, hailing it as the Magna Carta for small businesses. In his words, the WFDL was enacted to “protect the thousands of small businessmen in Wisconsin” who operate “filling stations, building materials and supply houses, lumber yards, sports equipment stores” and a variety of other businesses. The statutory text expressly identifies the promotion of fair business relations and protection from oppressive conduct among its principal
Continue Reading The Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law Enters Its 50th Year: An Introduction

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals allows negligence claims against businesses for cybersecurity attacks to move forward but holds that invasion of privacy claims require intentional conduct.

In the age of technology, more businesses are choosing to store their records in electronic databases for a variety of reasons, such as reducing paper files or to centrally locate information. It is likely that those electronically stored records contain personally identifiable information (PII) such as bank account records, social security numbers, driver’s
Continue Reading Wisconsin Court of Appeals Allows Negligence Claims for Cybersecurity Attacks, Holds that Invasion of Privacy Claims Require Intentional Conduct