Geiger v. Milwaukee Guardian Ins. Co., Inc., 94-0249

Decision Date12 October 1994
Docket NumberNo. 94-0249,94-0249
Citation188 Wis.2d 333,524 N.W.2d 909
PartiesGerald P. GEIGER and Patricia Geiger, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. MILWAUKEE GUARDIAN INSURANCE COMPANY, INC., Scott Lawrence and Nancy Lawrence, Defendants-Respondents, West Bend Mutual Insurance Company, Defendant.
CourtWisconsin Court of Appeals

Before BROWN, NETTESHEIM and SNYDER, JJ.

NETTESHEIM, Judge.

Gerald P. and Patricia Geiger appeal from a judgment dismissing their complaint seeking recovery for personal injuries Gerald suffered as a result of a fall at the residence of Scott and Nancy Lawrence, where Gerald was working as a plumber. Specifically, the Geigers appeal the trial court's refusal to submit jury instructions on the Lawrences' duty as owners of a place of employment under § 101.11, STATS., Wisconsin's safe-place statute. 1 The issue on appeal is whether the Lawrence home is a "place of employment" as defined by § 101.01(2)(f), STATS., as a result of Scott's work at home as an attorney. 2 We conclude that the Lawrence home is not a place of employment under § 101.01(2)(f). Consequently, we affirm.

FACTS

On January 25, 1990, Gerald was sent to the Lawrence home in Elkhart Lake by his employer, Plymouth Plumbing & Heating, Inc., to install a laundry tub in the Lawrences' basement. Gerald slipped on a snow-covered ice patch on the sidewalk leading to the back door of the Lawrence home while carrying the laundry tub and strained his back.

The Geigers subsequently commenced this action claiming that the Lawrences were negligent as owners of a place of employment under the safe-place statute for failing to remove the ice from the sidewalk or to provide any verbal warning about the ice. The Geigers contend that because Scott, an attorney, occasionally takes legal work home from his office in St. Nazianz and has met with clients in his home, the Lawrence home is a place of employment as defined in § 101.01(2)(f), STATS.

The trial court ruled that the safe-place statute was inapplicable because the Lawrence home is not a place where "industry, trade or business" is carried on, as required by § 101.01(2)(f), STATS. The claim was submitted to the jury on common law negligence, and the jury found no negligence by either the Lawrences or Gerald. The trial court denied the Geigers' motions after verdict and entered judgment on December 23, 1993, dismissing the Geigers' complaint and awarding costs to the Lawrences. The Geigers appeal.

THE SAFE-PLACE STATUTE

Section 101.01(2)(f), STATS., provides in part:

"Place of employment" includes every place, whether indoors or out or underground and the premises appurtenant thereto where either temporarily or permanently any industry, trade or business is carried on, or where any process or operation, directly or indirectly related to any industry, trade or business, is carried on, and where any person is, directly or indirectly, employed by another for direct or indirect gain or profit, but does not include any place where persons are employed in private domestic service which does not involve the use of mechanical power or in farming.

Interpretation of the safe-place statute is a question of law which we review de novo. See Strong v. Wisconsin Chapter of Delta Upsilon, 125 Wis.2d 107, 109, 370 N.W.2d 285, 287 (Ct.App.1985). The Geigers contend that the Lawrence home is a place of employment which is subject to the safe-place statute because: (1) activities related to a business are carried on there when Scott engages in work as an attorney, and (2) Gerald was employed there as a plumber at the time of the accident. We disagree with this contention and therefore affirm the trial court's conclusion that the Lawrence home is not a place of employment because no industry, trade or business is carried on in the home, nor is any process or operation related to industry, trade or business carried on in the home. See § 101.01(2)(f), STATS.

The Geigers first argue that because Scott occasionally engages in work while at home, his activities are "directly or indirectly related to [a] ... business." See id. We agree with the Geigers that the work that Scott engaged in at his home was related to his law practice. However, we are not persuaded that every infrequent business-related activity in the home subjects a homeowner to potential liability under the safe-place statute.

It is undisputed that Scott occasionally works while at home. Scott testified that he sometimes dictates while at home and, in rare instances, he meets clients at his home to get documents signed if it is more convenient for the client. However, Scott maintains his law practice in an office in St. Nazianz, not his Elkhart Lake home. He does not advertise his home as the locale of his law office.

The Geigers emphasize that Scott's activities were "directly or indirectly" related to business under § 101.01(2)(f), STATS. However, they ignore the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
7 cases
  • Barry v. Employers Mut. Cas. Co.
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • July 10, 2001
    ...the safe place statute to these facts and thus presents a question of law that we review de novo. Geiger v. Milwaukee Guardian Ins. Co., 188 Wis. 2d 333, 336, 524 N.W.2d 909 (Ct. App. 1994). ¶ 18. Wisconsin's safe place statute, Wis. Stat. § 101.11(1), is a negligence statute that, rather t......
  • Cortez v. Abich
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • January 24, 2011
    ...apply where an individual helped his brother to install a new roof without expectation of payment]; Geiger v. Milwaukee Guardian Ins. Co. (Wis.Ct.App.1994) 188 Wis.2d 333, 524 N.W.2d 909 [attorney's occasional work at home did not render his residence a "place of employment" subject to Wisc......
  • Cortez v. Abich
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • January 24, 2011
    ...apply where an individual helped his brother to install a new roof without expectation of payment]; Geiger v. Milwaukee Guardian Ins. Co. (Wis.Ct.App.1994) 188 Wis.2d 333, 524 N.W.2d 909 [attorney's occasional work at home did not render his residence a “place of employment” subject to Wisc......
  • Chanlynn v. Chancery Restaurant, 95-1014
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Court of Appeals
    • November 22, 1995
    ...independently. See Kellar v. Lloyd, 180 Wis.2d 162, 184, 509 N.W.2d 87, 95 (Ct.App.1993); Geiger v. Milwaukee Guardian Ins. Co., 188 Wis.2d 333, 335-36, 524 N.W.2d 909, 910 (Ct.App.1994). Analysis The Chancery first argues that the trial court erred by premising its negligence finding on th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT