Sullivan v. Waukesha County
In Sullivan v. Waukesha County, 218 Wis. 2d 458, 461, 578 N.W.2d 596 (1998), the supreme court clarified that under Wis. Stat. 69.12(1), "the circuit court's only role is to review the evidence presented by a petitioner and to determine whether the petitioner 'has established the actual facts of the event in effect when the vital record was filed.'" Sullivan, 218 Wis. 2d at 466, citing Wis. Stat. 69.12(1).
The supreme court charged the circuit court with making a factual determination about the actual manner and cause of Brian's death. See Sullivan, 218 Wis. 2d at 467.
In its capacity as the fact finder, the circuit court must independently review the evidence presented by the petitioner and determine whether the petitioner has met his or her burden of proof. See Sullivan, 218 Wis. 2d at 467-68.
The supreme court set that burden as proof by the greater weight of the credible evidence of the actual facts existing at the time the death certificate was filed. See id.
Information in the death certificate constitutes a rebuttable presumption which the petitioner must overcome by "showing by the greater weight of the credible evidence that the facts contained in the certificate of death do not represent the actual facts in effect at the time the certificate of death was filed." Id. at 468.
With these holdings, the supreme court remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings. See id. 472.
The supreme court also held that a pamphlet published by the Department of Transportation and the Wisconsin State Patrol relating to the effects of alcohol concentration in the blood was admissible. See Sullivan v. Waukesha County, 218 Wis. 2d 458, 472, 578 N.W.2d 596 (1998).