Wisconsin Lauded for “Common Sense” Legal Reforms

 Lisa Rickard, President of the U.S. Chamber of Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), recently wrote an article (“Wisconsin: Capital of Common Sense”), in which she commends Gov. Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Legislature for leading the nation over the past three years in enacting civil justice reforms.

As Rickard notes:

During the current decade, Governor Walker and lawmakers have mindfully enacted bold legal reforms in Wisconsin — a major reason Walker feels confident in his push to create more jobs and job security in his state…The last three years of landmark reforms have provided a template that other elected officials — governors, state legislators and even members of Congress — can and should utilize.

In the article, Rickard highlights the comprehensive legislation Wisconsin has enacted into law over the past three years, including:

  • 2011 Wisconsin Act 2, which contained comprehensive reforms, such as capping punitive damages, adopting standards (Daubert) of submitting expert evidence in lawsuits, product liability changes, and curbing frivolous lawsuits.
  • 2013 Wisconsin Act 105 (Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting), which promotes transparency and limiting contingency fees when the state hires outside private plaintiffs’ attorneys.
  • 2013 Wisconsin 154 (Asbestos Trust Fund Transparency), which helps prevent double-dipping by plaintiffs’ attorneys by creating greater transparency from attorneys when pursuing claims from asbestos personal injury settlement trusts set up to compensate asbestos victims and suing solvent Wisconsin businesses.

Not mentioned in the ILR article are the other civil justice reforms introduced by Gov. Walker and enacted by the Wisconsin Legislature during the 2011-12 session, including:

  • 2011 Wisconsin Act 69, which sets reasonable pre- and post-judgment interest rates at the Federal Reserve prime rate, plus one percent.
  • 2011 Wisconsin Act 93, which protects owners and possessors of land by codifying Wisconsin’s case law as it relates to the duty of care owed to a trespasser by a possessor of land.
  • 2011 Wisconsin Act 92, which set forth criteria courts are to consider when awarding attorneys’ fees when plaintiff’s’ attorneys seek attorneys’ fees. The law also created a rebuttable presumption that attorneys’ fees are no more than three times compensatory damages.

WCJC and WMC last year were recipients of ILR’s prestigious “Outstanding Organization Award” for helping pass these sweeping reforms over the past three years.