RTE Corp. v. Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations, 76-371

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtCONNOR T. HANSEN; DAY
Citation276 N.W.2d 290,88 Wis.2d 283
PartiesRTE CORPORATION, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. DEPARTMENT OF INDUSTRY, LABOR AND HUMAN RELATIONS and Arlene C. Zenefski, Defendants-Respondents.
Docket NumberNo. 76-371,76-371
Decision Date27 March 1979

Page 290

276 N.W.2d 290
88 Wis.2d 283
RTE CORPORATION, Plaintiff-Appellant,
C. Zenefski, Defendants-Respondents.
No. 76-371.
Supreme Court of Wisconsin.
Submitted on Briefs Jan. 9, 1979.
Decided March 27, 1979.

Page 291

[88 Wis.2d 284] Erwin Esser Nemmers, Chicago, Ill., submitted on brief, for plaintiff-appellant.

Bronson C. La Follette, Atty. Gen. and Gordon Samuelsen, Asst. Atty. Gen., submitted on brief, for defendants-respondents, Dept. of Industry, Labor and Human Relations.


This is an appeal from a judgment entered November 1, 1976, by the circuit court for Dane county, the Hon. MICHAEL B. TORPHY, JR., presiding, confirming an order of the Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations, dated April 10, 1975 directing RTE Corporation to pay fifteen percent [88 Wis.2d 285] increased compensation to Arlene C. Zenefski, widow of the deceased, under sec. 102.57, Stats., 1973. 1

The question as framed by the parties is:


Page 292

Because we conclude that there was credible evidence to sustain a violation of safety order 1.15 of the department we do not reach the issue of whether the Safe Place Statute was violated. Accordingly we affirm.

On March 14, 1974, Richard Zenefski was employed by the RTE Corporation, a manufacturer of transformers in Waukesha, Wisconsin. On that date, RTE's premises contained a general storage room approximately fifty feet by one hundred feet. Along the west wall, also called the fire wall, there was an aisle or passageway from eighty-four to 104 inches wide, formed by the fire wall on the west side and the ends of the storage racks [88 Wis.2d 287] which stood at right angles to the aisle, on the east side. The racks were used to store transformer tanks. The tanks were taken off and placed on the racks by means of a forklift truck which at the time of the accident was operated by Alan Wendt. Another forklift truck, driven by David Hansen, would transport the tanks from place to place within the area and to other parts of the employer's premises. Because of the width of the aisles between the racks, it was not practical for the forklift trucks to turn around, so Mr. Hansen would drive his truck straight into an aisle and then back it out in order to return to the long aisle along the fire wall. From zero to five persons would walk through the storage area on a given eight hour shift.

There was an exit door in the fire wall that opened into the aisle along the fire wall. On the day of the accident, Mr. Zenefski entered the storage room through another door in the east wall at the northern end of the area. He walked between two storage racks and then turned south into the long aisle along the fire wall.

As Mr. Zenefski approached the door in the fire wall, Hansen was backing his forklift truck out of the aisle between the fourth and fifth storage racks with a transformer tank loaded on the forks. In order to head south along the fire wall, Hansen began backing out northward into the west aisle. When he began to back up, he looked back once, and Mr. Zenefski was not then visible. Then he looked forward to avoid striking the corner of the storage rack with the forks as he swung out. At no time did Hansen sound the forklift horn, although his truck was equipped with such a horn. Zenefski was struck by the truck as he was attempting to go through the door.

Hansen heard the back of the truck scrape the fire wall, so he turned around and found Zenefski lying on the floor near the door. The door was open when [88 Wis.2d 288] Hansen saw Zenefski lying on the floor. It had been closed the first time Hansen had turned around. Wendt heard Zenefski scream when he was struck. Zenefski died of internal injuries at the hospital. Although Zenefski had previously been a cardiac patient, a post mortem ruled out cardiac trouble as the cause of death.

At the hearing, the only question before the examiner was whether the company should pay fifteen percent extra compensation to the widow because the injury resulted from a violation of the safe place statute or a DILHR safety order. The company had already conceded that death had arisen out of employment. The hearing examiner concluded violations of the safe place statute (Sec. 101.11, Stats.) and two commission safety orders were substantial factors in causing Zenefski's injuries and ordered increased compensation. The examiner did

Page 293

not base his finding on the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) regulations. The circuit court confirmed the award, and the company appeals.

Sec. 102.57, Stats., 1973 subjects an employer to liability for additional compensation and death benefits under the Worker's Compensation Act where injury is caused by the employer's failure to comply with any statute or any lawful order of DILHR.

Whether there has been a failure to comply with a statute or lawful order of DILHR presents a question of fact for the department, whose findings are conclusive if supported by any credible evidence. Hipke v. Industrial Commission, 261 Wis. 226, 231, 52 N.W.2d 401 (1952).

The hearing examiner found that failure to comply with Ind. 1.15 and Ind. 54.07 of the Wisconsin Administrative[88 Wis.2d 289] Code was a substantial factor in causing Mr....

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7 cases
  • Daimlerchrysler v. Lirc, 2005AP544.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • February 2, 2007
    ...or inconsistent with the regulations." Busch, 217 Wis.2d at 441, 576 N.W.2d 904 (citations omitted); see also RTE Corp. v. DILHR, 88 Wis.2d 283, 290, 276 N.W.2d 290 (1979). Here, the LIRC reviewed a rule promulgated by the DWD, not the LIRC's own rule. The LIRC is an adjudicative body charg......
  • Jenks v. Wisconsin Dept. of Industry, Labor and Human Relations, 81-1540
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • May 25, 1982
    ...579, 294 N.W.2d 39, 41 (Ct.App.1980); sec. 102.23(6), Stats. 7 Farmers Mill, supra note 6, at 579, 294 N.W.2d at 41; RTE Corp. v. DILHR, 88 Wis.2d 283, 288, 276 N.W.2d 290, 293 (1979); secs. 102.23(1) and 102.23(6), Stats. 8 Farmers Mill, supra note 6, at 579, 294 N.W.2d at 41. 9 Hamilton v......
  • Lewandowski v. Continental Cas. Co., 76-063
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • March 27, 1979
    ...of the record we are of the opinion the issues presented in this case were fairly and fully tried. We do not believe justice has for any [88 Wis.2d 283] reason miscarried or that a new trial is necessary to accomplish the ends of justice. The judgment of the trial court is Judgment affirmed......
  • Hillhaven Corp. v. DHFS, 99-0684.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • December 23, 1999
    ...level of deference. This level of deference has been, at times, termed "controlling weight," or even "great weight." RTE Corp. v. DILHR, 88 Wis. 2d 283, 290, 276 N.W.2d 290, 293 (1979); Vonasek v. Hirsch & Stevens, Inc., 65 Wis. 2d 1, 7, 221 N.W.2d 815, 818 (1974); Irby v. Bablitch, 170 Wis......
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