Wisconsin Assembly Passes Tort Reform Package, Sends it to Gov. Walker

By January 21, 2011Briefly Legal

From Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, “WMC Hails Legislature for Passage of Common Sense Legal Reforms“:

MADISONWisconsin’s largest business group Friday hailed the Wisconsin Legislature for swift final passage of common sense legal reforms that will improve the state’s business climate. We look forward to Governor Scott Walker signing his reforms into law.

“The swift, decisive action on common sense legal reforms is sending a message from Platteville to Wall Street that Wisconsin is open for business,” said James A. Buchen, WMC vice president of government relations. “With other states raising taxes, and passing other anti-business legislation, Wisconsin can stand apart and encourage businesses to create jobs.

The Assembly vote Thursday was 57-36 along party lines to approve without amendment the Senate’s version of the bill . The Senate passed the bill on Tuesday,19-14, also with Republican in support and Democrats opposed.

The WMC identified the most important legal reforms for manufacturers.

  • Adoption of various changes to product liability law to bring Wisconsin in line with other states and assist Wisconsin manufacturers and small businesses.
  • Requiring expert witnesses to base their opinions on sound science and well-established theories.
  • Elimination of the “risk contribution” theory in manufacturing lawsuits. The Wisconsin Supreme Court created the standard allowing plaintiffs to sue any lead paint manufacturer that sold paint in the state without proving which product caused the harm.
  • A cap on punitive damage awards. [Twice economic damages or $200,000, whichever is larger.]

The State Bar of Wisconsin, which opposes several major provisions, has done a credible job reporting on the legislation’s passage. See “Assembly sends omnibus tort reform bill to governor.”

The civil justice reform package was one of five jobs-oriented bills new Gov. Scott Walker introduced upon taking office and for which he called a special session of the Legislature to act upon. See the Jan. 4 news release, “Governor Walker Releases Five Pieces of Legislation to Get Wisconsin Working.”

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