Schauer v. DeNeveu Homeowners Ass'n, Inc.

Decision Date20 June 1995
Docket NumberNo. 93-2459,93-2459
Citation194 Wis.2d 62,533 N.W.2d 470
PartiesJay R. SCHAUER and Kathleen T. Schauer, Plaintiffs-Respondents, v. DeNEVEU HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC., Defendant-Appellant-Petitioner, Harold Sabel, J. Michael Doyle, Mary Doyle, Douglas Ondrasek, Barbara Ondrasek, William Leake, Virginia Leake, Hutter Investment Company, John Huempfner, Ramona Huempfner and Lake Deneveu Preserve, Inc., Defendants-Respondents, Brian Denzin, Mary Denzin, Robert Langjahr, Karen Langjahr, James Tursky, Michael Feucht, Jeff Wright, Mary Wright, Francis Sheridan, Carl Saggio, Nancy Saggio and Scott Snyder, Defendants.
CourtWisconsin Supreme Court

For the defendant-appellant-petitioner there were briefs by Linda S. Balisle and Balisle & Roberson, S.C., Madison and oral argument by Linda S. Balisle.

For the plaintiffs-respondents there was a brief by Chris J. Trebatoski, David A. Krutz and Michael, Best & Friedrich, Milwaukee and oral argument by Chris J. Trebatoski.

For the defendant-respondent, Lake Deneveu Preserve, Inc., there was a brief by William P. O'Connor and Wheeler, Van Sickle & Anderson, S.C., Madison and oral argument by William P. O'Connor.

STEINMETZ, Justice.

The sole issue for review is whether sec. 806.07(1)(f), Stats., 1 authorizes relief from a judgment on the ground that the case law relied on and applied by the circuit court in making its adjudication has been subsequently overruled in an unrelated proceeding. Without deciding whether any case law relating to this case has in fact been overruled, we hold that sec. 806.07(1)(f) does not authorize relief from a judgment on the ground that the law applied by the court in making its adjudication has been subsequently overruled in an unrelated proceeding. A party is entitled to relief under sec. 806.07(1)(f) only when a prior judgment has actually served as the basis for a subsequent judgment, order, or stipulation, and the prior judgment has been reversed or otherwise vacated.

This appeal stems from a declaratory judgment action brought by Jay and Kathleen Schauer to determine the scope of an easement that runs along the southwest border of their riparian 2 land and along the northeast border of riparian land owned by the Lake DeNeveu Preserve, Inc. (the Preserve). The DeNeveu Homeowners' Association, Inc. (the Association) acquired the easement in 1991, and members of the Association use the easement to access Lake DeNeveu. In addition, pursuant to the written easement, 3 members of the Association erected a pier in Lake DeNeveu, docked boats there, and stored personal possessions there, such as life-jackets, chairs, and grills.

The Schauers objected to the Association's use of the easement in this manner. Shortly after filing a declaratory judgment action, the Schauers moved for summary judgment. Relying heavily on de Nava v. DNR, 140 Wis.2d 213, 221, 409 N.W.2d 151 (Ct.App.1987), the Fond du Lac county circuit court, the Honorable John W. Mickiewicz, ruled in November 1989 that the easement was void insofar as it purported to grant riparian property rights, such as the right to construct and maintain piers, to a person or association that does not own riparian property.

Thereafter, the legislature enacted sec. 30.131, Stats., permitting nonriparian landowners to maintain piers if, among other things, they had erected and maintained the piers pursuant to the written easement. In light of this change in the law, the Association moved the circuit court to reconsider its November 1989 ruling. The circuit court granted the motion and amended its ruling to comport with sec. 30.131. However, the court refused to permit related accessory uses of the easement, such as storing personal possessions on the easement, even though they were arguably permitted by the terms of the written easement. On May 1, 1991, the court entered a final judgment reflecting its rulings. The Schauers appealed from the judgment, and the Association cross-appealed.

While the appeal was pending, the parties attempted to negotiate a settlement. The court of appeals twice stayed the proceedings to allow them more time to negotiate. The parties ultimately reached a comprehensive settlement of all outstanding issues relating to the scope of the easement. They evidenced their agreement by stipulating to a written final order, 4 which the parties refer to as a "Stipulated Final Judgment and Order." The stipulated order emphasized that it was designed to bring the action to a conclusion, stating:

The terms of this order are binding on all parties to this suit and on all successors in interest to the property affected by this order. No party to this action or their successors and assigns may assert a legal position in any future action that is contrary to the terms of this order or which would limit the rights granted to the parties herein.

All parties to this suit have the right to bring an action for judicial enforcement of the terms of this order.... If Anyone shall bring suit to enforce the terms of this order, the party or parties prevailing in such litigation shall be entitled to recover their reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses against the party or parties found in violation of this order.

(Emphasis added). 5 The parties submitted the stipulated order to the circuit court on December 20, 1991. The circuit court vacated the previous judgment and entered the stipulated order on January 23, 1992. The pending appeal was then voluntarily dismissed.

On January 19, 1993, this court decided Stoesser v. Shore Drive Partnership, 172 Wis.2d 660, 494 N.W.2d 204 (1993). On March 25, 1993, more than one year after the entry of the stipulated final order, the Association filed a motion pursuant to sec. 806.07, Stats., seeking relief from the stipulated order. Section 806.07(1)(f) gives circuit courts discretion to relieve a party from a judgment, order, or stipulation if "[a] prior judgment upon which the judgment is based has been reversed or otherwise vacated." The Association argued that the final judgment in this case was based on de Nava, and that Stoesser "reversed or otherwise vacated" de Nava insofar as de Nava held that an easement could not convey riparian property rights to a nonriparian property owner. Therefore, according to the Association, Stoesser "reversed or otherwise vacated" the judgment upon which the stipulated order was based.

By order dated June 23, 1993, the circuit court denied the motion on the ground that any further modification of the judgment required the commencement of a new action. The Association then filed a motion to reconsider, arguing that sec. 806.07(f), Stats., and not a new action, was the proper mechanism for relief, because a new action would be barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion, formerly referred to as res judicata. 6 By order dated August 30, 1993, the circuit court denied the motion to reconsider on the ground that the original motion was untimely because it was filed more than one year after entry of the stipulated final judgment. The Association appealed from these orders.

In a published opinion, the court of appeals affirmed the orders of the circuit court, although it disagreed with the circuit court's reasoning. Schauer v. DeNeveu Homeowners Ass'n, Inc., 187 Wis.2d 32, 36-37, 522 N.W.2d 246 (Ct.App.1994). The court of appeals reasoned that the Association's request for relief from the stipulated final order was "essentially a request for relief from the parties' stipulation." Id. at 37, 522 N.W.2d 246. The court then opined that relief from a stipulation may be granted only if the moving party shows that the stipulation was the result of fraud, mistake, or misrepresentation. Id. (citing Burmeister v. Vondrachek, 86 Wis.2d 650, 664, 273 N.W.2d 242 (1979)). Because the Association did not allege that the stipulation was the product of fraud, mistake, or misrepresentation, the court of appeals concluded that the Association had failed to state a ground for relief from the final order. Id. Pursuant to sec. 809.62, Stats., the Association petitioned this court for review, which was granted. We affirm the decision of the court of appeals, but we do so on grounds different from those stated by the court of appeals.

This case requires an interpretation of sec. 806.07(1), Stats. The interpretation of a statute is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo. Ball v. District No. 4, Area Board, 117 Wis.2d 529, 537, 345 N.W.2d 389 (1984). This case also requires a determination of whether the circuit court erroneously exercised its discretion in denying relief under sec. 806.07(1). Nelson v. Taff, 175 Wis.2d 178, 187, 499 N.W.2d 685 (Ct.App.1993) (citing State ex rel. M.L.B. v. D.G.H., 122 Wis.2d 536, 541, 363 N.W.2d 419 (1985)). Generally, we will look for reasons to sustain a circuit court's discretionary decision. Loomans v. Milwaukee Mut. Ins. Co., 38 Wis.2d 656, 662, 158 N.W.2d 318, 320 (1968). We may sustain a circuit court's decision to deny relief under sec. 806.07, even though the circuit court's reasoning may have been erroneous or inadequately expressed. See Mueller v. Mizia, 33 Wis.2d 311, 318, 147 N.W.2d 269 (1967). "Whether the ground assigned by the trial judge ... is correct is immaterial if, in fact, the ruling is correct and the record reveals a factual underpinning that would support the proper findings." Id.

The Association argues that the court of appeals erred in holding that relief from a stipulation may be granted only if the moving party shows that the stipulation was the result of fraud, mistake, or misrepresentation. Schauer, 187 Wis.2d at 37, 522 N.W.2d 246 (citing Burmeister, 86 Wis.2d at 664, 273 N.W.2d 242). We agree. In Burmeister, we stated that "[r]elief from a stipulation may be granted where the moving party shows that the stipulation was agreed to because of fraud, mistake, or misrepresentation." Id. at 664, 273 N.W.2d 242. We did not...

To continue reading

Request your trial
40 cases
  • Martindale v. Ripp
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • July 12, 2001
    ...we generally look for reasons to sustain a circuit court's determination on discretionary matters. Schauer v. DeNeveu Homeowners Ass'n, 194 Wis. 2d 62, 71, 533 N.W.2d 470 (1995). ¶ 98. Although the majority in this case professes to adhere to this standard of review, it nonetheless fails to......
  • Tetra Tech EC, Inc. v. Wis. Dep't of Revenue
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • June 26, 2018
    ...by the court in making its adjudication has been subsequently overruled in an unrelated proceeding." Schauer v. DeNeveu Homeowner's Ass'n, Inc., 194 Wis.2d 62, 75, 533 N.W.2d 470 (1995).49 True, as Justice Ziegler observed, Schauer specifically addressed the circumstance in which "[a] prior......
  • Sukala v. Heritage Mut. Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • June 22, 2005
    ...166 Wis. 2d at 103). ¶ 26. The rule announced in De Filippis was expressly adopted by this court in Schauer v. DeNeveu Homeowners Association, 194 Wis. 2d 62, 74-75, 533 N.W.2d 470 (1995). "The statute does not authorize relief from a judgment on the ground that the law applied by the court......
  • Murphy v. Holland
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Court of Appeals
    • December 16, 2021
    ...we will generally search the record for reasons to sustain the court's discretionary decision. See Schauer v. DeNeveu Homeowners Ass'n , 194 Wis. 2d 62, 71, 533 N.W.2d 470 (1995). Here, when we examine the 2020 judgment in its entirety together with the record, we find ample reasons to sust......
  • 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