Governor Scott Walker is defending tort reforms he’s proposed, reforms which critics contend will harm victims by making it more difficult from them to get justice. Walker’s proposal makes a number of changes, including limiting damages that can be awarded in certain civil cases. Speaking with reporters on Tuesday as a joint legislative committee held a public hearing on the 31 page bill, Walker dismissed complaints that the reforms will prevent victims from accessing state reports on nursing homes and other health care facilities. “If you really want to have quality control to make sure that those places continue to improve, that should be treated differently than a specific incident report,” the governor said. “But for things that involve action that was not right, that would not be altered by what we’re talking about in the legislation. [Read more…]
Search Results for: tort reform
A new study claims Wisconsin's litigation atmosphere is a threat to economic development.
Jim Hough with the Wisconsin Economic Development Association says numerous studies confirm a significant drop in Wisconsin's overall economic development rankings, which in turn shows a need for legal reform. The Wisconsin Economic Development Institute prepared the study, which also points out high costs to the state's small businesses.
But Darcy Haber with Citizen Action of Wisconsin says there's little news in the study's findings, and suggests another reason for lagging economic development — escalating health care costs. Hough says the study also found that injured parties receive only a fraction of awards with the balance going to things like attorney fees. Haber says Wisconsin citizens can retain attorneys on retainer; and wonders why their fees are questioned, while CEO pay is not.
Governor Scott Walker says changes to Wisconsin’s tort laws will be good for business. With tort reforms relating to prescription drugs, attorney fees and interest rates on damage awards all included in the latest special session on jobs creation, Walker is countering arguments those changes will make it more difficult for people to seek remedy through the courts. “Wisconsin still has very strong protections for consumer protection, particularly protecting older adults and seniors in our communities,” Walker said. “None of that’s affected one way or the other.”
Lawyers and advocacy groups are pushing back on some legislation being proposed as part of a special session on jobs, claiming the bills have more to do with weakening Wisconsin’s tort laws than they do with creating jobs. One bill (SB 13) to be included in the special session would provide legal immunity for drug makers and medical device manufacturers whose products receive approval from the Federal Food and Drug Administration. “I have never seen such pure unadulterated nonsense and rhetoric, to call this a job bill,” said Nino Amato, executive director of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups. “It’s not a job bill, and it’s an anti-consumer bill.” Amato said Wisconsin residents who become ill or die from such products would have no legal recourse if the bill were to become law.
AUDIO: Nino Amato (5:45)
Ed Vopal with the Wisconsin Association for Justice said there will still be costs, when people become ill or die from such products. “This legislation puts the costs directly on Wisconsin citizens, rather than on the people who manufactured an unsafe drug or an unsafe medical device,” Vopal said. “It does not create one safe job.” Vopal and Amato spoke at a Capitol press conference this week.
But the bill’s author, Republican state Senator Rich Zipperer, said the prospect of lawsuits act as a deterrent to pharmaceutical companies developing new products. “Look at the drugs and the devices that are never approved or never researched or never brought through the process, because of the costs of lawsuits, and because of the costs in these cases” he said. “These are potentially live saving drugs that may never see the market.”
As for jobs creation, Zipperer said he’s already been contacted by Abbott Labs, concerning the possibility of moving jobs from Illinois to Wisconsin. “They tell me this makes Wisconsin more attractive to the investment that’s needed to bring the jobs here.” Zipperer said the FDA needs to be reformed in order to ensure consumer safety. At their press conference, opponents of the measure displayed an array of prescription containers representing drugs which received FDA approval but were later withdrawn from the market because of health concerns.
AUDIO: Sen. Rich Zipperer interview (7:30)
Consumer attorneys say another one of the proposed bills (SB 12) will limit the options of low-income people seeking damages in court. The bill would limit attorney’s fees to three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded in such cases. “That’s insane for my type of practice,” said Jeff Archibald, a Madison attorney who takes such cases on a pro-bono basis. Archibald said his typical case is for a $200 claim “How many attorneys in this state . . . do you know who will take a case where they’re going to be limited to $600 in attorney’s fees?”
AUDIO: Jeff Archibald (5:45)
“As an attorney myself, I’m a bit shocked to hear other attorneys saying “we’re only going to take the case if there’s a giant payday at the end,'” said Zipperer. “Most attorneys that I know would gladly assist an individual with a valid claim.”
David Dudley, another Madison-based consumer lawyer, said the bill would have a tremendous impact on tenants attempting to get their security deposits returned. He cited the case of a Rock County woman he represented for an $800 claim against her former landlord. The judge in that case eventually awarded over $30,000 in attorney’s fees. “The reason the judge awarded those fees is because he realized those fees were necessary in order to bring this action, and the person never would have obtained that security deposit without an attorney standing up to this bully out-of-state landlord,” said Dudley.
“In these cases were clients and individual consumers have valid claims, those claims will get brought” countered Zipperer. “There will be an incentive on both sides, because both sides will have to pay attorneys, to settle out of court earlier, instead of racking up the high costs.”
A third bill (SB 14) being criticized would lower the interest rate that could be collected on judgments for people who successfully sue for injuries. That rate currently at 12 percent, would be capped at 1 percent plus the prime rate. “We find this to be absolutely shameful,” said Brian Rothgery with Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “All this would do is allow is allow corporations who have already been ordered to pay damages to a consumer to engage in stall tactics or other shenanigans to avoid paying what they already owe someone.”
The special session on jobs creation, called by Governor Scott Walker, is set to run concurrently with the legislature’s next regular floor session which begins next Tuesday and runs through November 3rd.
Businesses will have new safeguards against liability lawsuits, under a bill signed into law by the Governor on Thursday.
Governor Scott Walker says the measure will make it easier for businesses to operate in Wisconsin without the fear of being targeted by frivolous lawsuits. He says the legal climate in Wisconsin has made companies fear being sued or forced to reach costly settlements. [Read more…]
Lawmakers gave final approval Thursday night to a bill that makes sweeping changes to how civil lawsuits are handled in the state, and that makes it harder for the public to bring lawsuits against businesses.
The Assembly approved the measure on a 57-36 vote, but only after Republicans defeated nearly 20 amendments to the bill brought forward by Democrats. Those proposals sought to ease restrictions on expert witness testimony, remove caps on punitive damages, and restore access to state incident reports from medical and nursing home facilities. [Read more…]
On a straight party-line vote of 19-14, the Senate on Tuesday approved Governor Walker’s special session legislation directed at tort reform.
Senate Majority leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) says the bill will help create a business-friendly legal environment and ease fears about frivolous lawsuits. He says the move will send a signal to employers that Wisconsin is going to be competitive. [Read more…]
A joint legislative committee heard several hours of testimony Tuesday afternoon on Governor Scott Walker’s proposal for sweeping lawsuit reforms in the state. Those changes include capping certain damages victims can collect, along with making it harder for people to sue businesses and medical providers. [Read more…]
Some good news about Wisconsin’s business climate courtesy of a California-based free market think tank. When it comes to the burden imposed by personal injury lawsuits and related litigation, Wisconsin fares well in the latest rankings by the Pacific Research Institute, where Lawrence McQuillan is director of business and economic studies. “It matters, because the tort climate is an important factor in the overall business climate of a state,” said McQuillan
Paul Gagliardi with the trial lawyers group Wisconsin Association for Justice said the state has never been known for frivolous litigation. “You’re ill advised if you file cases that are without merit,” said Gagliardi. “This a pretty upfront state, we leave the door open to the courthouse, which you should do. But if you abuse that priviledge there are significant consequences.” [Read more…]
Wisconsin’s 3rd District Congressman wants changes in health care across America.
U.S. Representative Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) believes several medical organizations in Wisconsin are setting good examples for how to be more efficient and effective. Kind believes it’s necessary to change the way we pay for health care so it’s based on the quality of care given and not the volume of services provided.
AUDIO: Kind :25
The La Crosse Democrat believes we need to move away from the pressure to provide every possible test and procedure and instead focus on delivering what is right for the patient. With that in mind, he would support some form of tort reform.
AUDIO: Kind :18
Kind has become very involved in health care issues. He was recently named to the Rural Health Care Coalition, and he just introduced a bill to repeal the taxes on medical devices saying it hurts small manufacturers and affects patient access to lifesaving equipment.
Larry Lee, WSAU