Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued an opinion dismissing a plaintiff’s case against a state employee, based on the plaintiff’s failure to strictly comply with the notice requirements outlined in the state’s statute governing cases against governments and government employees. In the case, Sorenson v. Batchelder, the issue was whether personal notice of the lawsuit provided to the state’s attorney general complied with the requirement that notice be provided through certified mail.
In October 2010, a state employee rear-ended a vehicle that was pushed into the plaintiff’s vehicle, causing property damage and personal injury to the plaintiff. Three months later, the plaintiff served notice of the claim to the attorney general in the state’s capitol. After investigating the claim, the state government issued a check to the plaintiff in the amount of $241. Not satisfied with the compensation, the plaintiff then filed a negligence lawsuit against the state employee, seeking a fuller award.
Before the case reached trial, the defendant asked the court to dismiss the case because the plaintiff failed to strictly comply with the state’s notice requirement, which required that notice of a claim be delivered by certified mail. The lower courts determined that service was proper, but the state employee appealed to the highest state court.
The Appellate Opinion
The plaintiff’s argument was that personal service is a more effective means of serving notice than by certified mail, and to hold that personal service was insufficient would lead to an absurd result. This would be because the defendant knew of the lawsuit pending against him, but service was still held to be insufficient.
The defendant’s argument was simple: that the language of the statute was very clear and that it required service be made by certified mail.
The court ultimately sided with the defendant. The court began by explaining that strict compliance with the notice statute was required unless it led to an absurd result. Here, the court explained the result was not absurd merely because another means of providing notice was also successful in alerting the defendant to the pending case against him. The court noted that the statute at issue is not an “actual notice” statute that only requires notice be provided. Indeed, the statute specifies the means by which notice must be provided, and the plaintiff’s failure to comply was fatal to his case.
Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Washington, D.C. or Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation to help you recoup the costs associated with the accident. However, the procedural requirements placed on potential plaintiffs can be very confusing and burdensome, and they may lead to the dismissal of an otherwise meritorious case if not strictly met. To ensure that you are doing everything necessary to preserve your right to recovery, call one of the skilled personal injury attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC at 410-654-3600 today. Calling is free and will not result in any liability on your part unless we can help you obtain the recovery you deserve.
More Blog Posts:
Hot Air Balloon Operator Not Entitled to Immunity under Recreational Use Statute, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, April 15 2016
Motions for Summary Judgment in Washington, D.C. Courts, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, May 9, 2016