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Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg, shown in a 2011 photo, has received the endorsement of Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Joe Donald, who was edged out of the running in a primary election. AP file photo

Across the Region: Woman sues after slip on now-recalled bathmat

WISCONSIN

Primary loser endorses Kloppenburg for Supreme Court

The candidate knocked out of the race for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court is endorsing Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg.

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Joe Donald announced the endorsement Tuesday. Donald says Kloppenburg shares his “commitment to equal justice under the law, to an independent judiciary and to ensuring the Supreme Court is the people’s court.”

Kloppenburg says Donald raised some critically important issues during the primary and will work with him on criminal justice reform and racial disparities.

Incumbent Rebecca Bradley finished the primary with 45 percent of the vote, compared with Kloppenburg’s 43 percent. Donald had 12 percent of the vote. Voters will choose a Supreme Court justice on April 5.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Woman sues after slip on now-recalled bathmat

A Sioux Falls woman who slipped on a bathmat marketed as slip-proof is suing the maker and the company that sold it.

Diane Williams had a hip replacement about a month before she fell in the shower when she slipped on her AquaRug bathmat. The fall resulted in a broken leg, a surgical revision of Williams’ hip replacement, assisted living care and physical therapy.

By the time she had ordered the AquaRug, about a year ago after seeing it on the home shopping network QVC, manufacturer Tristar Products, Inc. had been sued in federal court over allegations that the non-slip bathmat was prone to slippage.

“I purchased the AquaRug because I wanted to be careful after my hip surgery,” Williams said. “The ads on television said it was a safer bathmat for the elderly. I don’t believe those ads were true and now I don’t want anyone else hurt by this product.”

Another lawsuit, which was filed late last month in U.S. District Court in South Dakota on Williams’ behalf, accuses Tristar Products Inc. and QVC of being aware of the dangers before she bought the bathmat. The complaint includes 40 online customer reviews saying the suction cups didn’t stick, the rugs didn’t stay in place and they could cause customers to fall.

“This product was marketed towards some of the most vulnerable people in our community, the elderly and those with physical impairments, who are most prone to serious injury from a fall,” said lawyer Brendan Johnson, who filed the lawsuit on Williams’ behalf. “We brought this lawsuit in an effort to help protect those members of our community.”

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for liability, negligence and breach of warranty.

QVC spokeswoman Diane Zappas said she couldn’t comment on the pending litigation. About 1.4 million of the bathmats have been recalled.

Attorneys for Bosworth, medical board argue over license

Former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Annette Bosworth’s felony conviction for violating election law doesn’t prevent her from providing proper care to her patients, her attorney told a judge weighing whether the Sioux Falls doctor should be allowed to keep her medical license.

The attorney for the state medical board, though, said Bosworth’s honesty and not her medical competency are in question.

The South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners last September revoked Bosworth’s medical license, and she appealed. Judge Doug Hoffman held a hearing Monday and will rule later, the Argus Leader reported. Bosworth can continue practicing medicine while her case proceeds.

A jury last May convicted Bosworth of perjury and filing false documents in connection with her nominating petitions for the 2014 Republican primary election, in which she finished fourth out of five candidates. She cited inexperience for the mishandling of the petitions, which had signatures she attested to witnessing despite being out of the country at the time. She received a suspended sentence and community service.

Bosworth’s attorney, Paul Richardson, said Monday that the criminal case shouldn’t affect her ability to continuing practicing internal medicine, adding that the medical board “found that she adequately treated her patients.”

Medical board attorney Craig Kennedy said Bosworth’s conviction raises questions about her character.

“A person who will lie to the extent of felonious perjury simply cannot be trusted,” he said.

 

City of Sioux Falls says media lawsuit not justified

A media lawsuit seeking documents related to a settlement over faulty siding at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls relies on “sky-is-falling” rhetoric, city attorneys contend in their formal response to the lawsuit.

Argus Leader Media is suing the city for access to documents related to a $1 million settlement with contractors over the bulging panels on the new $117 million facility.

The city and five contractors involved in the building’s construction settled the matter last September after months of negotiations that weren’t open to the public. The city released the amount of the settlement, but didn’t disclose other details such as the individual contributions by the contractors.

Argus Leader Media attorney Jon Arneson has said the settlement details should not be confidential because it was negotiated out of court and was not part of formal legal proceedings.

In the city’s reply, attorney James Moore said Argus Leader Media’s argument is “full of sky-is-falling sentiment” and is without merit. The response also says the city has a right to keep certain things secret because the Legislature “did not intend every document involving a public entity to be open to the public.”

City Attorney David Pfeifle told the newspaper that keeping details of the settlement confidential potentially saved taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal costs.

 

IOWA

County attorney to face charges over records dispute

A state board has voted to prosecute the Des Moines County attorney on accusations that she didn’t turn over law enforcement records sought by relatives of a woman killed by a Burlington police officer.

The Iowa Public Information Board voted 4-2 at its meeting last week to pursue action against Amy Beavers, saying she violated Iowa’s open records law last year by not giving copies of the records to the attorney for Autumn Steele’s relatives. A Burlington officer accidentally shot Steele to death in January 2015 while responding to a fight between Steele and her husband.

Beavers has said she thought her staff had sent the records to state investigators and so didn’t have the records to share with the family’s attorney.

 

NORTH DAKOTA

Probe finds hostile work environment at motor vehicle agency

An external investigation of the state Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Division has concluded that the agency has a hostile work environment due to stressful conditions and an “overbearing director.”

North Dakota Human Resources Management Services launched the probe at the request of the DOT last fall. It has resulted in a search for a new division director and a review of policies.

“There are many state agencies that are experiencing some of these issues due to increased public service demands brought about by the sustained boom in the oil field,” the investigation report said. “However, the intense work environment coupled with what appears to be a demanding and overbearing director led to the frustrations, perceptions and problems reported.”

The probe stemmed from a dispute between an employee and a supervisor in which the employee was fired but later offered a new position after twice appealing her termination. The DOT first conducted an internal investigation that did not find general harassment of employees but did find low morale. The department then requested the independent probe.

“The only really surprising thing was the extent of the morale. We didn’t know that,” Deputy DOT Director Darcy Rosendahl said.

Motor Vehicle Director Linda Sitz left her position and accepted another in DOT’s planning department before the conclusion of the external investigation. She didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The investigation recommends that the Motor Vehicle Division get a new director and that the agency make policy changes on such matters as breaks and overtime. Rosendahl said that’s being done.

 

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