'Public' can mean 1 person, state Supreme Court rules.

Byline: Michaela Paukner, mpaukner@wislawjournal.com

The term "the public" can refer to a single person, a majority of the justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled last week.

Chief Justice Pat Roggensack and justices Ann Walsh Bradley, Annette Ziegler, Rebecca Bradley and Rebecca Dallet released their majority opinion in Hinrichs and Autovation Limited v. The Dow Chemical Company, a case out of Waukesha County, on Thursday. Justices Dan Kelly and Brian Hagedorn did not participate.

Chris Hinrichs manufactures and installs JeeTops, a type of aftermarket acrylic skylight made for certain types of Jeep Wranglers. The company uses an adhesive made by Dow Chemical Company to install the skylights and ensure they're watertight.

Hinrichs said the JeeTops started cracking shortly after a Dow agent told him the company was testing a new primer on the skylights. By 2014, Hinrichs said about one-third of his panels using the Dow adhesive had failed. Many dealers and high-profile customers dropped the JeeTops in response to the resulting publicity, and Hinrichs said he's now not able to sell them, even though he has found a new adhesive.

Hinrichs sued, alleging three counts of misrepresentation and a violation of Wis. Stat. 100.18(1).4, which concerns fraudulent representation.A circuit court granted Dow's motion to dismiss the case. Hinrichs appealed, and the appellate court concluded neither of the standard exceptions to the economic-loss doctrine applied. At the same time, the appeals court ruled the circuit court had acted improperly when it dismissed the claim after finding Hinrichs, as an individual, did not fit the statutory definition of "the public."

The high court...

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