Although the American Tort Reform Association’s (ATRA) Judicial Hellholes report is renowned for documenting abuses of the civil justice system in jurisdictions that are among the most unfair and out of balance in the nation, the report also highlights those jurisdictions and states where positive reforms are taking place. For the third year in a row, Wisconsin received praise in the report’s “Points of Light” section.
The ATRA report (p. 53) recognized Wisconsin for enacting three important pieces of civil justice reform legislation this session:
Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting: Authored by Rep. Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin) and Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), Act 105 reins in excessive attorneys’ fees by setting tiers for contingency fees as a percent of recovered amounts ranging from 25 percent to 5 percent. Transparency is achieved by requiring that a copy of the executed fee contract be posted online. In addition, the private attorney must maintain time records and keep detailed records of expenses, disbursements, etc. for four years after the contract terminates.
Physician’s Duty of Informed Consent: Overturning Jandre v. Wisconsin Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund, and authored by Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon) and Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), Act 111 protects Wisconsin physicians and hospitals from unnecessary and costly lawsuits. Passed on a bipartisan vote, the Act overturns a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision and clarifies the proper standard for physicians when informing patients of alternate medical modes of treatment and about the benefits and risks of those treatments.
Lemon Law Reforms: Authored by Rep. Bill Kramer (R-Waukesha) and Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon), Act 101 removes Wisconsin’s previously dubious reputation of having the worst lemon law in the nation. The new law makes a number of changes, including: 1) eliminating mandatory double damages, 2) adding time for manufacturers to deliver a comparable vehicle, 3) reducing the statute of limitations, 4) adding a good faith requirement, and 5) clarifying what it means for a vehicle to be out of service.