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3 city lawsuits remain ongoing
Monroe City Hall Sign

MONROE — There are two cases still taking aim at the city in lawsuits, while one has been brought by the Cities & Villages Mutual Insurance Company with Monroe as one of the named plaintiffs.

In a fight between a multinational retail corporation worth hundreds of billions of dollars and the city, two lawsuits brought against Monroe have been consolidated to one after discussion between attorneys representing Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and City Attorney Dan Bartholf. The cases were consolidated in an order by Green County Circuit Judge James Beer on Feb. 1.

The local store sits on 26 acres of land along 6th Avenue West, just north of Wisconsin 11. Filed Nov. 16, the complaint made by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. lawyers Christopher Lee Strohbehn and Russell James Karnes contends that the 2018 tax value is no more than $7.8 million. 

City Assessor Ryan Anderson, who works for the contracted company Associated Appraisal Consultants Inc. of Appleton, appraised the property at just under $10.55 million, which Strohbehn and Karnes argue allows for excessive taxation. 

Anderson had stated during a previous meeting of the city’s Board of Review that he was following state instruction in his assessment of the property and that “dark store” values should not be used. The wording refers to the argument by companies that the total should be based on the sale of previously unsuccessful businesses which were vacant when sold rather than the business’ income potential. Arguments for this practice have included claims that the land has less value once the store building is constructed on the lot.

Opponents of the so-called “dark store loophole” like the Wisconsin League of Municipalities, Wisconsin Counties Association and the Wisconsin Towns Association have launched a campaign pushing for legislation to end the practice or “close the loophole.” The measure passed in some counties throughout the state during the fall election as a referendum question. The opposition group claims 85 lawmakers currently support legislation supporting closure of the loophole.

The final pre-trial is set for March 13. The in-person proceeding will either result in a summary judgment being given by Beer or the final proceeding before a full trial. There have been no jury trial requests, according to court documents.

In another case, brought against the city by way of the Monroe Police Department, a resident is looking to recover costs for medical care, lost earnings and “emotional distress,” according to court records. 

William Klein, 59, filed a suit July 10 against Monroe Police officer Brent Krebs and the city for $250,000, the highest amount recoverable by a person for damages against an officer or state employee, per state statute 893.82(6). 

On May 12, 2016, at about 5:30 p.m., Krebs was responding to an ambulance call within the city. Driving southbound in the 1800 block of 13th Avenue, Krebs did not have his emergency lights or sirens active when pulling forward onto 19th Street. Monroe Police Chief Fred Kelley has said Krebs saw Klein driving an eastbound motorcycle and slammed on his brakes, though the front bumper of the bike collided with the squad car. According to the accident report per Kelley, the motorcycle remained upright, though it had slight damage to the front fender.

Klein claimed in court records that the motorcycle slammed into the body of the police car, with the bike skidding underneath. In his suit, filed against Krebs, the city and CVMIC, Klein has requested nearly $45,000 to pay for medical costs. He cited the need for additional compensation up to the statutory limit to account for unknown future costs of care. 

Attorneys for the city, Ted Waskowski and Kyle Engelke of Madison-based Stafford Rosenbaum LLP deny allegations of negligence and made a jury demand March 18. A final pre-trial is scheduled for Dec. 12.

And in the only case brought against an individual by the city through CVMIC, Matthew B. Hernandez, 36, of Monroe was served papers by a deputy with the Grant County Sheriff’s Office at a residence on Grant Street in Platteville Nov. 10. 

It was the second attempt to notify Hernandez he was being sued for negligently setting fire to a vehicle in Honey Creek Park in May 2017. 

CVMIC is the leading plaintiff in the lawsuit, though the city is also a part of the proceedings. CVMIC and the city allege actions by Hernandez led to the car starting on fire and that through that negligence or possibly purposeful act, he violated city ordinance chapter 5, title 7, which requires a permit for open burning. 

Court records indicate the suit is aimed at Hernandez and his insurance companies. IMT Insurance serves as Hernandez’s homeowners’ policy and Wadena Insurance is the insurer on his vehicle. IMT argues that the homeowners’ policy does not cover the vehicle and the incident involving it because of the location, while Wadena’s attorneys point out that the policy for the vehicle also does not cover the incident because it was not part of a collision of some kind. Both companies formed as a group, and according to court records, retained Quentin F. Shafer of von Briesen & Roper S.C. of Milwaukee to defend Hernandez. 

The reason for the lawsuit by the city is to recover the costs of $40,000 in workers compensation required after a Monroe firefighter was injured attempting to extinguish the flames. Craig Whitaker, who is listed as an involuntary plaintiff in the suit, suffered an ankle fracture while trying to put out the car flames. 

Beer ordered there be two proceedings; one to determine whether the insurance companies do provide coverage for the incident, and then a trial to determine liability and damages. No proceedings on liability will move forward until resolution of the insurance coverage dispute takes place. Oral arguments are scheduled for July 17.