Latest Study Provides Mixed Reviews for Wisconsin’s Civil Justice System

A new study prepared by the Pacific Research Institute (PRI) ranks Wisconsin 9th in its latest “Tort Liability Index.” On its face, the report appears to provide a positive snapshot of Wisconsin’s civil justice system. However, when using a different set of variables, i.e., tort laws and procedures on the books, the report drops Wisconsin all the way down to No. 35.

Moreover, the study groups all 50 states into four areas: saints, sinners, salvageables, and suckers. Wisconsin is placed in the “suckers” group with eight other states. The study describes the “suckers” group the following way:

[These states] have weak tort rules on the books because they currently have relatively low monetary tort losses and/or low tort litigation risks and, therefore, believe that reform is not needed. These states are a personal-injury lawyer’s next green pasture. In the game of lawsuit “Whack-a-Mole,” the suckers are the states where plaintiffs and their lawyers will pop up to pursue abusive lawsuits because these states have not preemptively closed off opportunities for excessive litigation.

A similar study prepared by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform released in March ranked Wisconsin 22nd in the nation. That study’s final results were based on interviews of 1,482 in-house general counsels, senior litigators or attorneys, and other senior executives knowledgeable about litigation matters at public and private companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million.

The takeaway from both studies is that although Wisconsin is not one of the worst states in the country in terms of civil justice, there is still room for improvement when it comes to its current tort laws.

One thing is for certain — Wisconsin would have ranked much lower in both studies had the numerous harmful bills seeking to weaken the state’s tort laws passed last session .