Appeal from a judgment of the Circuit Court for Racine County: John C. Ahlgrimm, Circuit Judge. On certification from Court of Appeals.
Shirley S. Abrahamson, J. Steinmetz, J. (dissenting).
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Abrahamson
This appeal from the judgment of the circuit court of Racine county, John C. Ahlgrimm, Circuit Judge, is before us on certification of the court of appeals. Secs. 808.05(2) and 809.61, Stats. 1981-82.
The court of appeals certified the following issue: Is a stepmother who has acted as the minor's mother for more than ten years and has signed the minor's application for a driver's license as his "mother," a "parent" within the meaning of sec. 343.15(1) and (2), Stats. 1977, so that both the stepmother and the minor's father are liable for damages caused by the minor's negligence while operating a motor vehicle?
The circuit court had concluded that the stepmother in this case signing as sponsor on a minor's application for a driver's license was a "parent" under sec. 343.15(1), Stats. 1977, and entered judgment decreeing the minor, the minor's stepmother, and the minor's father jointly and severally liable under sec. 343.15(2), for damages caused by the minor's negligent operation of a motor vehicle. We affirm the judgment of the circuit court as modified herein as to amount of damages.
Sec. 343.15(1), Stats. 1977, provides that a sponsor must sign a minor's application for a driver's license and identifies those persons who may be sponsors. Among the persons it permits as sponsors is a minor's parent. Sec. 343.15(2), imposes liability on the sponsor for damages caused by the minor's negligent or wilful misconduct when operating a vehicle. Furthermore, if the sponsor is a parent, liability is imposed on both parents where both have custody of the minor. Secs. 343.15(1) and (2), provide as follows:
"(1) he application of any person under 18 years of age for a [driver's] license shall be signed and verified before a person duly authorized to administer oaths by either of the applicant's parents; or if neither parent has custody, then by the person or guardian having such custody or by the applicant's employer. . . .
"(2) Any negligence or wilful misconduct of a person under the age of 18 years when operating a motor vehicle upon the highways is imputed to the parents where both have custody and either parent signed as sponsor, otherwise, it is imputed to the adult sponsor who signed the application for such person's license. The parents or the adult sponsor is jointly and severally liable with such operator for any damages caused by such negligent or wilful misconduct."
The facts are undisputed. On June 29, 1979, an automobile driven by Lon Fesko, a minor, collided with an automobile driven by Elma Ynocencio. Mrs. Ynocencio and her husband, plaintiffs, filed a personal injury action naming Lon Fesko, his father, Charles Fesko, and his stepmother, Sharon Fesko, as defendants.
Before trial the parties stipulated to a number of matters which relate to the issues on appeal. The parties agreed that the negligence causing the accident should be apportioned 90 percent to the minor driver and 10 percent to the plaintiff driver. They also agreed as to the dollar amount of special damages, while the jury determined plaintiffs' damages for personal injury and loss of society and companionship. The total damages, which are now undisputed, are $6,200.11 and judgment was entered for that amount. The parties agree on appeal that the circuit court erred in not reducing the total damages in accordance with the stipulation that apportioned 10 percent negligence to the plaintiff driver. We modify the judgment accordingly. Sec. 895.045, Stats. 1981-82.
The parties also stipulated to a number of facts which relate to the issue of the liability of the minor's father and stepmother under sec. 343.15. The following stipulated facts are the basis for the parties' dispute on appeal:
(1) Lon Fesko was a minor, sixteen years of age at the time of the accident;
(2) Sharon Fesko, Charles Fesko's wife, signed as sponsor on Lon Fesko's application for a driver's license and "indicated in executing the application she was the mother of Lon Fesko"; this license was in effect at the time of the accident;
(3) Both Sharon Fesko and Charles Fesko had "custody of the minor Lon Fesko at the time of the accident and indeed Lon had been living with them for a period of ten years;" Sharon Fesko "considered herself to be, and was called by the family in general, Lon's mother," and for ...