Quarles & Brady: Attorney Clears Up Confusion Over Statutes of Limitations and Statutes of Repose

Michelle MacGrath (414) 277-5272

Attorney La Fave Publishes Explanation in Marquette Law Review

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – The law firm of Quarles & Brady LLP today announced that Daniel J. La Fave, a partner with the firm, has just had his article “Remedying the Confusion Between Statutes of Limitations and Statutes of Repose in Wisconsin – A Conceptual Guide” published in this summer’s edition of the Marquette Law Review. The article draws upon his experiences in securing the dismissal of three Wisconsin cases as untimely under an Iowa statute of repose for older products. In order to do so, he had to persuade the courts that foreign statutes of repose should be applied under Wisconsin’s borrowing statute in the face of a contrary decision by the Wisconsin court of appeals dating back to 1990.

In commenting on the genesis of the article, La Fave remarked that, “Judges and attorneys alike have labored for decades with muddled precedent on the distinctions between statutes of limitations and statutes of repose. As a result of the courts’ recent decisions in these casing involving accidents in Iowa, the time is ripe to finally put an end to that confusion. It is my sincere hope that the practical guidelines I offer in this article will help to achieve that end, and will enable both courts and practitioners to avoid future miscues in this area.”

As recently as in its 2001 decision in Landis v. Physicians Insurance Co. of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Supreme Court lamented that “statutes of limitation” and “statutes or repose” have been “two of the most confusing and interchangeably used terms in the law.” In his article, La Fave makes the case that the source of this confusion stems from a comment in the Supreme Court’s 1944 decision in Maryland Casualty Co. v. Beleznay that, “in Wisconsin, limitations are not treated as statutes of repose.” La Fave explains how courts have taken this statement out of context over the years, and a significant body of case law has been infected by that misconception. The article shows how the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Wenke v. Gehl finally dispels any notion that Maryland intended to recognize any fundamental distinction between “statutes of repose” and “statutes of limitations” as those terms are now used.

La Fave’s article highlights other recent cases that have helped dispel what he calls “the Maryland myth,” including a decision by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in the consolidated cases of Merner v. Deere & Co. and Bahl v. Deere & Co. Through these cases, La Fave maps out the precedential developments that have led to a more favorable legal climate for addressing the distinctions between the time limits established by “statutes of limitations” and “statutes of repose.” The article culminates in providing several basic guidelines for avoiding conceptual problems that have plagued this area of the law.

La Fave focuses his practice on product liability counseling and litigation, but has extensive experience in both business and employment related disputes. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the United States Navel Academy in 1985 with distinction, and his law degree from Northwestern University in 1992 with honors. He is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and Racine Bar Associations, Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association, Seventh Circuit Bar Association, and the Defense Research Institute. La Fave serves on the board of directors for the Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association, and is the Chair of the Legislative Sub-Committee of the State Bar’s Bench/Bar Committee. He has published numerous legal articles, including four that have appeared in the Wisconsin Lawyer.

Quarles & Brady LLP is a full-service law firm with more than 400 attorneys practicing from offices in Chicago, Ill.; Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.; Naples, Fla.; and Milwaukee and Madison, Wis. The firm offers an array of legal services to corporate and individual clients who range from small, entrepreneurial businesses to Fortune 100 companies. Quarles & Brady represents clients in a broad range of industries and practice areas, including, but not limited to the following: antitrust and trade regulation; bankruptcy; commercial litigation; corporate law; public finance; creditor’s rights; employee benefits; environmental law; financial institutions; federal Indian and gaming law; government relations; health care; immigration; information technology; insurance law; intellectual property; international law; labor and employment law; product liability; real estate development and finance; school law; state and federal tax; tax-exempt organizations; trusts and estates; and white-collar crime. Additional information about the firm may be found at www.quarles.com.