Wipperfurth v. U-Haul of Western Wisconsin, Inc., U-HAUL

CourtCourt of Appeals of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtDONLIN
Citation297 N.W.2d 65,98 Wis.2d 516
Decision Date26 August 1980
Docket NumberNo. 80-144,U-HAUL
PartiesPaul L. WIPPERFURTH, Respondent, v.COMPANY OF WESTERN WISCONSIN, INC., Appellant. *

Page 65

297 N.W.2d 65
98 Wis.2d 516
Paul L. WIPPERFURTH, Respondent,
v.
U-HAUL COMPANY OF WESTERN WISCONSIN, INC., Appellant.
*
No. 80-144.
Court of Appeals of Wisconsin.
Submitted on Briefs June 30, 1980.
Opinion Released Aug. 26, 1980.
Opinion Filed Aug. 26, 1980.
Review Granted.

Andrew O. Riteris, Ellen E. Sward and Michael, Best & Friedrich, Madison, for the appellant.

James S. Grodin, Gerald M. Schwartz and Grodin & Grodin, Milwaukee, for respondent.

[98 Wis.2d 517] Before DONLIN, P. J., and FOLEY and DEAN, JJ.

DONLIN, Presiding Judge.

Paul Wipperfurth and U-Haul Company of Western Wisconsin, Inc., entered into a dealership contract on September 17, 1969. The contract provided that Wipperfurth was to use his service station as a "dispatching and receiving location" for the rental of U-Haul trucks. In return, he received a five percent commission on all rentals made from his station. The agreement continued until May 2, 1978, when Wipperfurth received a thirty-day notice of U-Haul's termination of the contract. Although the thirty-day notice was not sufficient to comply with the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law

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(WFDL), 1 it did satisfy the terms of the 1969 contract between the parties.

After notice of termination, Wipperfurth commenced this action to enjoin U-Haul from terminating the contract, alleging U-Haul had not complied with several provisions of the WFDL. Wipperfurth had not received ninety days' notice of termination with the requisite sixty days in which to correct any deficiencies. 2 In addition,[98 Wis.2d 518] the WFDL requires that before a dealership may be terminated, the grantor must show good cause. 3 Wipperfurth alleges that U-Haul's termination of his contract contravenes this section.

U-Haul argues that because the contract between the parties was entered into prior to the passage of the WFDL, its requirements are inapplicable. Ruling in favor of Wipperfurth, the trial court enjoined U-Haul from terminating the dealership. The primary question on appeal concerns the retroactive application of the WFDL. Because we conclude that the WFDL cannot be applied to contracts entered into prior to its passage, we reverse.

The applicable section of the WFDL, sec. 135.03, Stats., provides:

No grantor, directly or through any officer, agent or employe, may terminate, cancel, fail to renew or substantially change the competitive circumstances of a dealership agreement without good cause. The burden of proving good cause is on the grantor.

The language of the WFDL itself does not address the question of its retroactive application. Wipperfurth maintains, however, that the history of the WFDL demonstrates the legislature's intent to apply it to agreements entered into prior to its original passage in 1974.

In the original act, the legislature provided that it apply to "dealership agreement(s) entered into after April 5, 1974." 4 With the passage of the amendment in 1977, the words "after April 5, 1974," were deleted. 5 This deletion[98 Wis.2d 519] forms the basis for Wipperfurth's contention that the legislature intended the act to be retroactive.

Because it is not clear from its language whether the act is to be applied to pre-1974 contracts, it is permissible to look beyond the face of the statute to its legislative history. 6 In this instance the legislative history is also ambiguous since it could support both Wipperfurth and U-Haul's positions.

The 1977 amendment to ch. 135 effected several changes that could support Wipperfurth's contention. It eliminated the explicit prospective provision of sec. 135.03, and created sec. 135.025, stating the purpose of the act. As created, sec. 135.025 does not include any language that specifically limits WFDL's coverage only to contracts entered

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into after 1974. 7 The amendment would seem to indicate that the legislature intended the act to cover pre-1974 agreements. Moreover, since the purpose clause states that the act intends to give dealers[98 Wis.2d 520] remedies in addition to contractual ones, it would seem to sustain Wipperfurth's view. 8

Additional support for Wipperfurth's view is provided by a letter from William Nelson 9 to Representative Thomas Hauke in which he comments on the then proposed amendment:

If, indeed, Chapter 135 is a remedial statute that has caused considerable protection to have been extended to independent small Wisconsin businessmen, it is difficult to imagine a rationale that would limit that protection to new small businesses and deny it to old businesses. The statute as amended to delete that language would not require retroactive interpretation, as has often been contended, but would indeed rather only permit the trial court to determine what application could constitutionally be given to the law on a case-by-case basis. It would seem to me that this would maximize fairness to all concerned. 10

This demonstrates that at least one person, although not a legislator, believed that the WFDL would have some retroactive applicability. Because the intent of one individual cannot be imputed to the whole legislature, the value of Nelson's letter is minimal. 11

Conversely, the legislative history also supplies support for the view that the WFDL was not meant to be retroactive. In 1974, the legislature specifically provided that the "good cause" requirement of sec. 135.03 was to be prospective only. This legislative direction, however, was not included in the notice provision of sec. 135.04. In 1977, the legislature may have simply been [98 Wis.2d 521] correcting a drafting oversight by eliminating the specific provision governing only sec. 135.03 and creating a new section, sec. 135.025, to govern...

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8 practice notes
  • Wipperfurth v. U-Haul Co. of Western Wisconsin, Inc., U-HAUL
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • April 29, 1981
    ...contract or agreement purporting to do so is void and unenforceable to that extent only." 3 Wipperfurth v. U-Haul of Western Wis., Inc., 98 Wis.2d 516, 523, 297 N.W.2d 65 4 The United States Constitution, Art. I, Sec. 10, clause 1 provides: "No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, o......
  • State v. Reimann, No. 94-2528-CR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • October 17, 1996
    ...unclear in regard to its prospective or retroactive application, it is considered to apply prospectively only. Wipperfurth v. U-Haul Co., 98 Wis.2d 516, 522, 297 N.W.2d 65, 68 (Ct.App.1980), aff'd, 101 Wis.2d 586, 304 N.W.2d 767 (1981). However, if a statute "is remedial or procedural, rath......
  • Vermont Yogurt Co. v. Blanke Baer Fruit and Flavor Co., No. 81-732
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • May 5, 1982
    ...of Certain Lands by Benson, 101 Wis.2d 691, 697, 305 N.W.2d 184, 187 (Ct.App.1981); Wipperfurth v. U-Haul Co. of Western Wis., Inc., 98 Wis.2d 516, 522, 297 N.W.2d 65, 68 (Ct.App.1980), aff'd, 101 Wis.2d 586, 304 N.W.2d 767 (1981). While the statute must be read broadly, it must also be rem......
  • Dowhower v. West Bend Mut. Ins. Co., No. 98-2762.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • June 30, 2000
    ...211 Wis. 2d 458, 480, 565 N.W.2d 521 (1997). ¶ 15. Relying upon Wipperfurth v. U-Haul Co. of Western Wisconsin, Inc., 101 Wis. 2d 586, 297 N.W.2d 65 (1981) and the authority cited therein, the Dowhowers contend the freedom to contract without fraud or deception is both a liberty and propert......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • Wipperfurth v. U-Haul Co. of Western Wisconsin, Inc., U-HAUL
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • April 29, 1981
    ...contract or agreement purporting to do so is void and unenforceable to that extent only." 3 Wipperfurth v. U-Haul of Western Wis., Inc., 98 Wis.2d 516, 523, 297 N.W.2d 65 4 The United States Constitution, Art. I, Sec. 10, clause 1 provides: "No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, o......
  • State v. Reimann, No. 94-2528-CR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • October 17, 1996
    ...unclear in regard to its prospective or retroactive application, it is considered to apply prospectively only. Wipperfurth v. U-Haul Co., 98 Wis.2d 516, 522, 297 N.W.2d 65, 68 (Ct.App.1980), aff'd, 101 Wis.2d 586, 304 N.W.2d 767 (1981). However, if a statute "is remedial or procedural, rath......
  • Vermont Yogurt Co. v. Blanke Baer Fruit and Flavor Co., No. 81-732
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • May 5, 1982
    ...of Certain Lands by Benson, 101 Wis.2d 691, 697, 305 N.W.2d 184, 187 (Ct.App.1981); Wipperfurth v. U-Haul Co. of Western Wis., Inc., 98 Wis.2d 516, 522, 297 N.W.2d 65, 68 (Ct.App.1980), aff'd, 101 Wis.2d 586, 304 N.W.2d 767 (1981). While the statute must be read broadly, it must also be rem......
  • Dowhower v. West Bend Mut. Ins. Co., No. 98-2762.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • June 30, 2000
    ...211 Wis. 2d 458, 480, 565 N.W.2d 521 (1997). ¶ 15. Relying upon Wipperfurth v. U-Haul Co. of Western Wisconsin, Inc., 101 Wis. 2d 586, 297 N.W.2d 65 (1981) and the authority cited therein, the Dowhowers contend the freedom to contract without fraud or deception is both a liberty and propert......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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