Mackall, Crounse & Moore, PLC has joined Dewitt Ross & Stevens S.C.

The newly formed DeWitt Mackall Crounse & Moore S.C. will provide clients with enhanced legal services
and efficiencies as well as access to more than 100 attorneys practicing in nearly 30 areas of
law in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

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Wisconsin Employers Should Monitor State Minimum Wage Debate

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Many state legislatures and local governments across the country considered proposals to increase the minimum wage in the past year. The National Conference of State Legislaturesreported that 34 states considered increases to the minimum wage since 2013 and that ten states and the District of Columbia enacted increases to their minimum wage laws between 2013 and July 2014. Several local governments also significantly increased the minimum wage in their communities in 2014. The City of Seattle passed an ordinance in June adopting a $15 per hour minimum wage increase that will take effect over the course of several years. These state and local proposals have garnered increased attention after legislation to raise the federal minimum wage stalled in Congress.

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Harpoon Brewery Goes ESOP

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Boston-based Harpoon Brewery has established an ESOP and, effective August 1, 2014, will transfer 48% of its ownership into the ESOP.  Accordingly, Harpoon’s employees will become “employee-owners” and share in the growth of the value of Harpoon’s stock.  Harpoon is the 12thlargest craft brewery in the United States.

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How Absolute is the “Absolute Pollution Exclusion?”

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Most comprehensive general liability insurance policies include an “absolute” (or “total”) pollution exclusion.  Courts across the country have struggled with the issue of just how “absolute” that exclusion really is.  The Nevada Supreme Court is the latest court to grapple with the issue in a May 29, 2014 decision.  Century Surety Co. v. Casino West, Inc., 2014 WL 2396085 (Nev. 2014).  In that case, four people died from carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping in a room above a pool heater in the Casino West Motel.  Casino West sought coverage from its liability insurer, Century Surety Company, for the death claims but Century denied coverage based upon the absolute pollution exclusion in its policy.  That exclusion bars coverage for bodily injury or property damage “arising out of the actual, alleged or threatened discharge, disbursal, seepage, migration, release or escape of ‘pollutants’.”  The policy defined a “pollutant” as “any solid, liquid, gaseous or thermal irritant or contaminant, including smoke, vapor, soot, fumes, acids, alkalis, chemicals, and waste.”  The Nevada Supreme Court observed that “it is reasonable to categorize carbon monoxide as a pollutant because it is a gaseous element that contaminates the air, making it dangerous and sometimes deadly to breath.”  However, Casino West argued that the exclusion only applies to “traditional environmental pollution,” and the Court also found that interpretation to be reasonable.  The pollution exclusion was thus ambiguous and the Court construed it in favor of coverage.  The Court held that Casino West had coverage notwithstanding the absolute pollution exclusion.

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DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C., including its affiliate DeWitt Mackall Crounse & Moore S.C., is one of the ten largest law firms based in Wisconsin, with an additional presence in Minnesota.  It has more than 100 attorneys practicing in Madison, Metropolitan Milwaukee and Minneapolis in over 30 legal practice areas, and has the experience to service clients of all scopes and sizes.

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