Michael Sever and Thomas Orlando Achieve Wisconsin Appellate Win for Auto Auctioneer Client

Foran Glennon partner Michael Sever and shareholder Thomas Orlando obtained an appellate win for their auto auctioneer client in a Wisconsin case concerning the ownership of five vintage motorcycles.

Michael had previously won summary judgment for the auctioneer in Walworth County Circuit Court in 2021, where the Court awarded the motorcycles’ ownership to the auctioneer. The motorcycles’ consignor (who had been unable to substantiate his ownership claims) then filed a Motion for Relief from Judgment.  Michael opposed the Motion, and the Walworth County court denied it. Undeterred, the consignor appealed the summary judgment order.

The consignor sought reversal by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, arguing that

  1. The Walworth County Court did not review the matter under proper summary judgment methodology;
  2. The Walworth County Court should have accepted the consignor’s unsigned responses to the auctioneer’s Requests for Admission; and
  3. The consignor had produced sufficient evidence to establish his motorcycle ownership claims.

In response, Michael and Tom countered that the auctioneer had demonstrated:

  1. Its exclusive possession of the five motorcycles;
  2. That the consignor had failed to present any evidence to the trial court establishing his ownership claims; and
  3. That the consignor, by virtue of failing to tender statute-compliant responses to the auctioneer’s Requests for Admission, had legally admitted that he was not the motorcycles’ owner.

Michael and Tom also argued that the trial court was right to reject evidence the consignor submitted after the summary judgment filing deadline.

In a unanimous decision, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District II found the Walworth County court did not err in concluding that it could not find the consignor to be the motorcycles’ owner.

The appellate court then examined whether title to the motorcycles could be quieted in the auctioneer’s name and found:

  1. The auctioneer held exclusive possession and control;
  2. No competing ownership interest could be demonstrated; and
  3. While the auctioneer had not “purchased” the motorcycles, it had expended resources in their transportation and continued storage, in addition to suffering lost income from the sales that needed to be aborted due to the consignor’s failure to produce title documentation.

Therefore, the Court of Appeals concluded that the motorcycles’ title and ownership could be judicially vested in the auctioneer. The Walworth County Circuit Court’s order was unreservedly affirmed.

Michael concentrates his practice in commercial litigation, construction litigation, casualty litigation, subrogation, products liability and professional liability defense. He has drafted, argued and won numerous dispositive motions in jurisdictions across the Midwest.

Focusing his practice in insurance and appellate law in both insurance and non-insurance disputes, Tom has experience representing both appellants and appellees in several state and federal courts nationwide. He is well-seasoned in a range of insurance coverage disputes, including property and liability coverage and litigation matters involving commercial and personal insurance.

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