Melchert v. Pro Elec. Contrs., 2017 Wis. Lexis 169 (April 7, 2017)
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (“DOT”) contracted with Payne & Dolan (“P&D”) as General Contractor on a road improvement project. P&D in turn contracted with Pro Electric Contractors (“Pro Electric”) to install concrete bases for new traffic signal poles. DOT provided Pro Electric with detailed plans and specifications for the project (“Project Plan”) that specified the location of the concrete bases and the excavation equipment to be used. Pro Electric was required to comply with the Project Plan and could only make deviations if approved by DOT’s engineer.
While excavating one of the specified locations, Pro Electric unknowingly severed a sewer line, causing sewage backup and flooding on adjoining private property. Pro Electric then backfilled the excavation site without inspecting the sewer line for damage. The private property owners (“Owners”) brought a negligence action against Pro Electric. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Pro Electric, ruling that it was immune from liability because it was merely implementing DOT’s design decisions. The court of appeals affirmed, and Owners appealed to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin.
Continue Reading Supreme Court of Wisconsin Holds That Private Subcontractor Is Immune to Property Damage Claims by Adjoining Landowners Because it Followed Specifications Provided by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation