Is a Gravity-Operated Hopper a Motor Vehicle?

August 2023

A recent decision by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals - District III, took up the question of whether a tractor-trailer is a motor vehicle for purposes of evaluation of the Wisconsin wrongful death statute.  In the Estate of Weimer v. Zeeland Farm Services, et. al.,  Kevin Weimer died after falling into a gravity-operated hopper that was attached to a semi-truck and being smothered by corn gluten.  The question the court had to take up was whether the complaint was filed timely.  In Wisconsin, a two year statute of limitations is provided for actions that result in death from an accident involving a motor vehicle.  Wis. Stat. 893.54(2m).  This two year rule for a wrongful death differs from the general rule which is three years.  Wis. Stat. 893.54(1m).

The court came to the conclusion that hopper attached the truck qualified as a motor vehicle.  The court looked at statutes which defined a motor vehicle a combination of two or more vehicles and also included trailers and semi-trailers designed that are connected.

The court ruled that the case was not timely filed.  Thus, the statute of limitations worked to bar the Plaintiff's claim.

This case represents the importance of hiring counsel soon after an injury.  The delay in bringing this suit caused the Plaintiff to lose their claim.

At Herrick & Hart, we have been on the side of the injured since 1951.  If you have been injured, do not delay and talk to experienced personal injury counsel as soon as you can after being injured.


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