Saturday, April 3, 2010

Decision in 'Racine County v. Oracular Milwaukee, Inc' 2010 WI 25

The Wisconsin Supreme Court yesterday issued its decision in this case (2007AP2861) affirming the Court of Appeals, 2009 WI App 58, 317 Wis. 2d 790, 767 N.W.2d 280. See Argument.

Opinion by Justice Ziegler.
¶29 In this case, in order to survive summary judgment, Racine County was not required to name an expert witness. As a preliminary point, Racine County alleged breach of contract, not negligence. There is no allegation that Oracular's performance failed to meet the standards of the computer consulting industry——whatever those may or may not be. Accordingly, the issue is not whether Racine County is required to present expert testimony in order to demonstrate that Oracular's performance fell below the industry standard of care.[footnote omitted] Instead, the issue is whether in order to survive summary judgment, Racine County was required to name an expert witness when the complaint alleged that Oracular breached the parties' Agreement.
¶31 ... If September 7, 2004, was intended as the project deadline, ... the fact-finder is capable of determining for itself whether the project was indeed completed by that time. Similarly, the fact-finder can evaluate whether the deadline was repeatedly modified and repeatedly missed, as Racine County intends to argue. The question of whether the software installation project was completed by a specified date is distinct from the complexity of the work that goes into the installation——complexity that Racine County concedes. The former is not so "unusually complex or esoteric," ... as to require the assistance of expert testimony. ... [citations omitted]
¶32 Racine County also intends to produce evidence that Oracular breached the Agreement by failing to provide competent training. As shown in the affidavits, several Racine County employees will testify that one of Oracular's training consultants was herself unfamiliar with the software and that Oracular's project manager admitted that the project was staffed for failure. Based upon that evidence, the fact-finder is capable of drawing upon common knowledge and ordinary experience to determine whether Oracular provided competent training. [citation ommited]
See 2009-2010 Term of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Average jurors can decide issue: Experts not needed in computer dispute, by David Ziemer, Wisconsin Law Journal

Supreme court holds expert testimony not required for summary judgment, by Deborah G. Spanic, State Bar of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Supreme Court backs county in IT dispute, LaCrosse Tribune (via WisPolitics)