Legislature Considers Civil Justice Reforms

The 2011-12 Legislative Session was a watershed year for civil justice reforms in Wisconsin, but that does not mean that there are no concerns remaining. A number of civil justice related bills have been introduced and are working their way through the system.

Limiting Phantom Damages

Rep. André Jacque and Sen. Paul Farrow have introduced legislation (SB 22/AB 29) that will allow juries in personal injury cases to see all the evidence when determining the amount required to compensate a plaintiff for his or her past medical expenses. While the legislation applies to personal injury cases, the bill also addresses the recent Orlowski v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court which extended the collateral source rule to underinsured motorist (UIM) cases.

Hamilton Consulting’s Andrew Cook has authored an article, published by the Wisconsin Defense Counsel, detailing the need for this reform in Wisconsin.

Transparency in Government Retention of Plaintiffs’ Attorneys

Rep. Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin) and Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) have introduced legislation (SB 19/AB27) that provides greater transparency and oversight when the State of Wisconsin hires private plaintiffs’ attorneys on a contingency fee basis. Other states have passed similar laws, as described by this Wall Street Journal editorial.

The Assembly Committee on Judiciary held a public hearing on AB 27 on March 28, and will hold an executive session on the bill on April 4.

Limiting Double-Dipping in Personal Injury Cases

Rep. André Jacque (R-DePere) and Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) recently introduced SB 13/AB 19, which provides transparency and prevents fraud in lawsuits involving personal injury trusts by creating certain discovery requirements during litigation. A similar law passed late last year in Ohio, as discussed in this Wall Street Journal editorial.

The Assembly Committee on Judiciary is holding a hearing on AB 19 on April 4.

If you have questions about any of these bills, please contact Hamilton Consulting’s Andrew Cook.