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Wisconsin Supreme Court Validates Rights of Commercial Property Owners

July 14, 2006

On July 11, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided an important case that validates the contract rights of commercial real estate owners and developers (Wisconsin Mall Properties, LLC v. Younkers, Inc., 2006 WI 95). Katherine Stadler, a shareholder with Godfrey & Kahn, S.C., argued the winning case along with Attorney Greg Conway of Green Bay.

The case involved the nationwide Saks department store chain’s efforts to abandon the former Younkers building. Originally subject to a 20-year lease, Saks Inc. convinced the City of Green Bay to condemn the property for redevelopment and relieve Saks of its obligations under the lease. The building’s owner, Wisconsin Mall Properties, sued Saks for the unpaid lease payments. The Brown County Circuit Court and the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that Wisconsin Mall could not sue Saks for its breach of the lease agreement. Because the city had condemned the property, the lower courts held, Wisconsin Mall’s only option was to seek the payments from the city in a condemnation proceeding. The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, reversed the lower courts’ rulings, and remanded the matter to the Brown County Circuit Court for a trial on Saks’ breach of contract, and to determine the proper amount of Wisconsin Mall’s damages.

Stadler completed her undergraduate education at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, receiving her B.A. degree with distinction in International Relations. She received her J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law.

Founded in 1957, Godfrey & Kahn maintains offices in Madison (LaFollette Godfrey & Kahn), Milwaukee, Appleton, Green Bay, and Waukesha, WI; Washington, DC; and Shanghai, PRC. With more than 190 attorneys, Godfrey & Kahn provides legal and business advice to clients ranging from small businesses and governmental entities to large privately and publicly held national and international companies. For more information, visit our web site at www.gklaw.com.

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