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An affiliate of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce

WMC v. Tony Evers

Court: Wisconsin Supreme Court/Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District IV/Waukesha County Circuit Court
Appeal Nos.: 2020AP2103, 2020AP2081
Circuit Court Case No.: 2020CV1389
Status: In briefing in Wisconsin Supreme Court
WMC Involvement: Plaintiff

WMC filed this lawsuit asking for an injunction to stop Governor Evers’ release of business names that have had employees who have tested positive for COVID-19.

WMC was made aware that information on more than 1,000 businesses would be released on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, by the Evers Administration if they had at least two employees who tested positive for COVID-19 – regardless of where the employees contracted the virus. Additionally, WMC learned that business information could be released even if they had no employees test positive but had two or more contact tracing investigations.

As a result, WMC filed this action and sought a temporary restraining order to prevent the state from releasing this information. In part, the lawsuit argues:

  • The records that defendants plan to disclose are protected by patient-confidentiality laws
  • Even if the information that defendants plan to release were not explicitly protected by the health-privacy statutes, the open-records statute would not authorize disclosure
  • Disclosure would cause plaintiffs’ members irreparable harm
  • An injunction is necessary to preserve the status quo and is in the public interest

The circuit court granted WMC’s request for an injunction preventing the release of this information while the litigation moved forward. The state appealed that decision. Separately, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel intervened and sought to dismiss the case; that motion to dismiss was denied. The Journal Sentinel has also filed an appeal. The court of appeals concluded that WMC and its co-plaintiffs lack “standing” to bring this lawsuit and that a provision in Wisconsin’s open records law prohibits this lawsuit. WMC filed a petition for review, which the Wisconsin Supreme Court granted. The case is in briefing in the supreme court.

Business Interest: This case is of interest to the broader business community for the implications it could have on business property tax assessments statewide.