2006 Wisconsin Trial Lawyer of the Year
Milwaukee Attorney Lynn Laufenberg Receives the Honor
The Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers (WATL) named Lynn R. Laufenberg the Robert L. Habush Trial Lawyer of the Year. Attorney Laufenberg received the award at WATL’s Presidents’ Dinner on Friday, December 1, 2006 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Incoming WATL President Robert L. Jaskulski (Milwaukee) and Outgoing WATL President Daniel A. Rottier (Madison) hosted the event.
The Robert L. Habush Trial Lawyer of the Year Award is bestowed on that member of our organization who has made an outstanding contribution to the public interest or who has demonstrated compassion and commitment to advocacy on behalf of injured consumers.
WATL President Daniel A. Rottier stated, “Lynn is a fierce advocate who lets the facts and legal theory drive his advocacy. He is never driven by anger or animosity. Tort law in Wisconsin has benefited by his contributions as have hundreds of his clients. We all owe him a debt of gratitude. He is a fitting recipient of the Robert L. Habush Trial Lawyer of the Year award.”
Lynn R. Laufenberg is the senior member of the Milwaukee law firm of Laufenberg & Hoefle, S.C. He concentrates his practice in personal injury litigation, representing persons and families harmed by medical negligence, defective products, unsafe premises and other careless acts. He is a 1975 cum laude graduate of Marquette University Law School. Later he clerked for former Supreme Court Justice Bruce F. Beilfuss. Laufenberg lives on Moose Lake in Waukesha County with his wife Mary Jane. They have four children, including Mike, who is also a member of the law firm.
Laufenberg served as President of WATL in 2003 and continues to serve on the Board of Directors. He has been a co-editor of The Verdict, WATL’s quarterly publication, has co-chaired WATL’s Constitutional Challenge Committee and serves on WATL’s Amicus Curiae Brief Committee and the Jury Instruction Committee. He is a frequent lecturer and writer on the subjects of tort law and trial advocacy. He has been elected to three terms on State Bar of Wisconsin’s Litigation Section and served as Chair of that Section as well as chair of the Section Leaders Council. He is a member of the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates and has been recognized as a Civil Trial Specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.
Lynn’s scholarship and impact on Wisconsin law has been immense. He has been an active developer of Wisconsin tort law, appearing before state and federal appellate courts in numerous cases. His work in the area of products liability successfully led to the formulation of enhanced injury doctrine, which precludes consideration of fault of an injured party in causing the accident when determining liability for enhanced injuries. Farrell v. John Deere Co., 151 Wis. 2d 45, 443 N.W.2d 50 (Ct. App. 1990) and Kutsugeras v. AVCO, 973 F.2d 1341 (7th Cir. 1992). He also successfully argued for the rejection of "comparative risk" evidence as relevant to a determination of whether a product is "unreasonably dangerous." Bittner v. American Honda Motor Co. Inc., 194 Wis. 2d 122, 533 N.W.2d 476 (1995)
Lynn’s work on stray voltage cases has been cutting edge, arguing successfully that the Public Service Commission's "level of concern" did not establish the sole basis for a utility's liability for damages caused by stray voltage in Hoffmann v. WEPCO, 2003 WI 64, 262 Wis. 2d 264, 664 N.W.2d 55.
In the area of medical malpractice, Lynn argued successfully that the "alternative methods of treatment" concept did not apply to determination of liability for negligent diagnosis. Miller v. Kim, 191 Wis. 2d 187, 528 N.W.2d 72 (Ct. App. 1995)
On issues of evidence, Lynn has confirmed that, once qualified as an expert, opinion based on statistical information concerning impact of spinal injuries on impairment of future earning capacity could not be precluded. Brain v. Mann, 129 Wis. 2d 447, 385 N.W.2d 227 (Ct. App. 1986). He has also confirmed the privileged nature of income tax and income information from non-earned sources and precluded the discovery of same in context of claim for impairment of earning capacity. Konle v. Page, 205 Wis. 2d 389, 556 N.W.2d 380 (Ct. App.1996)
In addition, Lynn has been generous in his support of other lawyers and improving the law, providing assistance in over a dozen amicus briefs and participating in oral argument at the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the following cases of note:
- Strenke v. Hoger, 2005 WI 25, 279 Wis. 2d 52, 694 N.W.2d 296, where he successfully argued on behalf of the plaintiff that proof of intent to cause injury to a specific person was not required to support an award of punitive damages under Wis. Stat. § 895.85(3).
- Baumeister v. Automated Products, Inc., et al, 2004 WI 148, 277 Wis. 2d 21, 690 N.W.2d 1, where participated in oral argument and the Supreme Court confirmed the “every argument must be frivolous” standard as basis for award of sanctions for frivolous appeal.
- Haferman v. Vangor, et al., 2005 WI 171, 286 Wis. 2d 621, 707 N.W.2d 853, again participating in oral argument and helping to convince the Supreme court they should reject the contention that the 3-year statute of limitations applied to claims of medical malpractice asserted on behalf of developmentally disabled child.
- Fuchsgruber, et al v. Custom Accessories, Inc., et al., 2001 WI 81, 244 Wis. 2d 758, 628 N.W.2d 833, where he participated in oral argument and the Supreme Court rejected the contention that modification of joint and several liability rule contained in the amended comparative negligence statute, Wis. Stat. § 895.045, applied to strict product liability claims.
Lynn has authored amicus briefs in the following cases:
- Rebernick v. Wausau General Insurance Co., Appeal No., 2006 WI 27, 289 Wis. 2d 324, 711 N.W.2d 621 (confirmed that "notice of availability" of UIM coverage required by § 632.32(4m) applies to excess/umbrella coverage.
- Stehlik, et al. v. Rhoads, et al., 2002 WI 73, 253 Wis. 2d 477, 645 N.W.2d 889. (Revised formulation of verdict and jury's allocation of responsibility where plaintiff is alleged to have been passively negligent for not using available injury prevention equipment.
- Lagerstrom v. Myrtle Worth Hospital, et al., 2005 WI 124, 285 Wis. 2d 1, 700 N.W.2d 201. (Established that collateral source payments in medical malpractice cases are admissible solely for the purpose of a jury's consideration in determining the reasonable value of medical care.
- Amanda Carney-Hayes, et al. v. Northwest Wis. Home Care, et al., 2005 WI 118, 284 Wis. 2d 56, 699 N.W.2d 524. Confirmed that so-called "Alt" privilege may not be asserted to preclude questioning a defendant in a malpractice action on standard of care issues.
Laufenberg is a prolific writer, authoring articles for magazines and publications concerning medical malpractice, collateral source rule, informed consent, joint and several liability, and stray voltage.
Finally Laufenberg has been a strong advocate for the civil justice system in the halls of the Legislature, appearing as a witness in the legislative process on behalf of WATL, the Litigation Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin and the State Bar of Wisconsin over 20 times to present testimony in opposition to efforts to restrict access to the courts by injured consumers, overturn common law rights of recovery and undermine the independence of the judiciary.
On receiving the award, Laufenberg expressed his appreciation and humility in receiving the award, discussing the previous winners of the Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.