Heritage Farms, Inc. v. Markel Ins. Co.Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs in this action consisted of Heritage Farms and several other landowners whose properties were damaged as a result of a forest fire. A jury determined the fire was negligently caused by Jeffrey Knaack. Post-verdict, Plaintiffs moved for judgment against Knaack, the campground, and their respective insurers (Defendants) for double damages and attorney fees and costs under Wis. Stat. 26.21(1). The circuit court awarded Heritage Farms its attorney fees and costs but declined to double Heritage Farms' damages. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) pursuant to section 26.21(1), if it is determined that the owner's property was injured or destroyed by a forest fire that occurred through willfulness, malice, or negligence, the property owner is entitled to double damages; (2) because the jury determined Heritage Farms' property was damaged by a forest fire caused by Knaack's negligence, Heritage Farms was entitled to double damages; (3) pursuant to Wis. Stat. 841.04(4), Heritage Farms was entitled to twelve percent interest on its double damages award from the date of the jury's verdict and to twelve percent interest on its award of attorney fees and costs from the date of that award; and (4) section 814.04(4) was constitutional.