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Mootness Doctrine

Managed Health Services Insurance Corp. v. Wisconsin DHS, 2010AP2551, District 1, 9/7/11

court of appeals decision (recommended for publication ); case activity

Managed Health’s appeal related to contract procurement is dismissed as moot; because of failure to seek a stay of the trial court’s order allowing the process to continue, the contracts have already been let, and therefore even if Managed Health were to prevail, no remedy could be awarded.

¶19      In response, DHS contends that Managed Health’s claims are moot because DHS signed contracts with the winning proposers after Managed Health failed to obtain an injunction.  Because the contracts have been signed, DHS submits that Managed Health cannot obtain the remedies it seeks, and therefore its claims are moot pursuant to PRN Associates LLC v. State of Wisconsin Department of Administration, 2009 WI 53, 317 Wis. 2d 656, 766 N.W.2d 559.  We agree with DHS.

¶20      “An issue is moot when its resolution will have no practical effect on the underlying controversy.”  Id., ¶25.  We “generally decline to reach the merits of an issue that has become moot,” id., ¶29, because as a general rule, we do not determine abstract principles of law, id., ¶28. Whether an issue is moot is a question of law we review de novo.  State ex rel. Milwaukee Cnty. Pers. Review Bd. v. Clarke, 2006 WI App 186, ¶28, 296 Wis. 2d 210, 723 N.W.2d 141.

¶21      To determine whether the resolution Managed Health seeks can have any practical effect on the existing controversy, we need not address the legal issues Managed Health raises on appeal.  See PRN, 317 Wis. 2d 656, ¶31.  Instead, we examine Managed Health’s requested relief.  See id.  In its amended petition for judicial review, Managed Health requested that the circuit court:  (1) set aside DHS’s April 2010 Notice of Intent to Contract; or (2) in the alternative, issue an order directing DHS to award a contract to Managed Health.  We conclude that PRN precludes Managed Health from recovering either remedy.

¶24      Here, after the circuit court’s adverse decision on its motion for an injunction, Managed Health could have, and should have, asked the circuit court to stay proceedings and sought relief from a non-final order with this court. …  Because it did not, DHS signed contracts with the four winning proposers, and now Managed Health’s claims are moot.

Not relevant to SPD practice on the facts, of course, but the broader principle is worth keeping in mind even if it doesn’t come up that often:  “An issue is moot when its resolution will have no practical effect on the underlying controversy.”

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