David and Kathy Ollhoff appeal a judgment and orders denying them summary judgment, refusing to allow evidence of remedial measures and refusing to set aside the jury verdict. They argue that (1) strict liability should have applied against the defendants because they housed "wild" animals, (2) the trial court erred by refusing to allow the Ollhoffs to present evidence of remedial measures and (3) the trial court should have set aside the verdict as perverse. We reject these arguments and affirm.
David Ollhoff and his family visited Jim Peck's Wildwood, Inc., a nature park that includes a petting zoo and a musky pond. During this trip, Ollhoff was bitten while reaching into the musky pond to pet a musky. Ollhoff sued Wildwood under negligence, safe place and strict liability theories. Before trial, the court denied summary judgment to both sides and dismissed Ollhoff's strict liability claim with prejudice. The case proceeded to trial, during which the court granted Wildwood's motion in limine excluding evidence that Wildwood placed warning signs near the musky pond after the accident. The jury returned a verdict finding Wildwood 10% causally negligent and Ollhoff 90% causally negligent. Ollhoff's postverdict motions were heard and denied and he appealed.
When we review a decision to grant or deny summary judgment, we apply the same methodology as the trial court. Green Spring Farms v. Kersten, 136 Wis.2d 304, 315, 401 N.W.2d 816, 820 (1987). Thus, summary judgment should be granted if there are no disputed
Ollhoff argues that Wildwood should be held to a standard of strict liability, and thus Ollhoff is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. He cites treatises and foreign state case law that indicates the possessors of wild animals are strictly liable for physical harm caused by the animals. W. PAGE, KEETON, ET AL., PROSSER AND KEATON ON THE LAW OF TORTS, § 77, at 542 (5th ed. 1984); Briley v. Mitchell, 115 So.2d 851 (La. 1959), on remand, 119 So.2d 668 (La. App. 1960). The Wisconsin legislature has not adopted a strict liability rule for all "wild animals." Rather, it has established strict liability causes of action only for particular types of animals. See sec. 172.01, Stats. (stallions, bulls, boars, rams and billy goats allowed to run at large); sec. 174.02, Stats. (dogs). It has not established strict liability for damages caused by other animals, such as a musky.
Wildwood argues that the liability of the owner or keeper of an animal is controlled by Wis Jury Instruction—Civil 1391, which states:
Wildwood asserts that this instruction appropriately establishes a duty of care that expands or contracts depending on the specific traits of the particular animal involved and the general characteristics of the class to which the animal belongs. We agree. Although we are not bound by the jury instructions, we view them as persuasive. State v. O'Neil, 141 Wis.2d 535, 541 n.1, 416 N.W.2d 77, 80 n.1 (Ct. App. 1987). In the absence of statutorily created strict liability, the liability of owners or keepers of all animals should be governed by the law as stated in Wis Jury Instruction—Civil 1391. The instruction correctly does not distinguish between domesticated and wild animals, but rather instructs the jury to hold owners of animals to the appropriate standard of care given the nature of the animal involved.
Whether Wildwood violated that standard of care was a jury issue. Therefore, the trial court correctly denied Ollhoff's motion for summary judgment.
SUBSEQUENT REMEDIAL ACT
At the time of the accident, there were no warning signs at the musky pond. After the accident, Wildwood placed warning signs at the pond. The trial court granted Wildwood's motion in limine and prohibited Ollhoff from mentioning at trial the subsequent placement of the signs. Our review of an evidentiary ruling is limited to determining whether the trial court properly exercised its discretion. Chomicki v. Wittekind, 128 Wis.2d 188, 195, 381 N.W.2d 561, 564 (Ct. App. 1985). We will affirm the trial court if it (1) examined
Ollhoff argues that this subsequent remedial act could have been admitted under sec. 904.07, Stats. This section states:
Ollhoff correctly asserts that the trial could have allowed this evidence under sec. 904.07 because this case sought to prove a safe place violation and because Ollhoff could have used it to impeach testimony offered by a Wildwood witness. However, the trial court did not exclude the evidence under sec. 904.07, but rather under sec. 904.03. During trial, the court reiterated its ruling:
Under sec. 904.03, the trial court is given broad discretion to exclude evidence where its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice and other factors. See State v. Pharr, 115 Wis.2d 334, 342, 340 N.W.2d 498, 501 (1983) (we defer to the discretion of the trial court on evidentiary issues). The trial court's explanation shows that it examined the relevant facts, applied the proper standards and, using a demonstrative rational process, reached a conclusion that a reasonable judge could reach. We conclude therefore that this was a reasonable exercise of discretion.
Last, Ollhoff argues that the verdict should be set aside as perverse. Bergmann v. Insurance Co. of North America, 49 Wis.2d 85, 87-88, 181 N.W.2d 348, 350 (1970), provides the applicable standard to a challenged jury finding:
The basis of Ollhoff's contention that the verdict was perverse was that (a) the 10%/90% split went against the credible evidence supplied to the jury, and (b) ajury finding of no future medical expenses for David Ollhoff and no damages to Kathy Ollhoff was not in any way supported by the evidence. We are not persuaded because there is credible evidence to support the jury's apportionment of negligence.
David Ollhoff is an adult who reached into a musky pond to pet a musky. He testified that he attempted to pet the musky near the tail area to avoid being bitten. The jury could infer that he was aware of the danger of "petting" a musky. There is credible evidence to support a finding that David Ollhoff was 90% causally negligent. Thus, it is apparent that Wildwood is not liable. Where it is apparent that there is no liability in any event, the failure of the jury to find damages does not render the verdict perverse. Jahnke v. Smith, 56 Wis.2d 642, 652, 203 N.W.2d 67, 72 (1973). Therefore, the jury's failure to find any future medical expenses for David or any loss of consortium for his wife does not make the verdict's answer on negligence perverse.
By the Court.—Judgment and orders affirmed.