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Bill Restricts Civil Lawsuits

Backed by many special interests; statute of limitations for suits reduced from six to three years.

By - Mar 26th, 2018 10:07 am
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. Photo by Riley Vetterkind / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. Photo by Riley Vetterkind / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

A pro-business bill that slashes the amount of time people can file lawsuits was given final approval on Friday by the Assembly and sent to Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

The proposal, Assembly Bill 773, reduces from six to three years the statutes of limitations for civil lawsuits involving liability, fraud, rights violations, and injury to character.

The deadline for suing over injuries caused by property improvements would be cut from 10 years to six years.

The proposal would also allow judges to choose attorneys in class action lawsuits and limit discovery. Parties in a lawsuit would not be required to retrieve old electronic data or, in some cases, electronic records that are too time-consuming or costly to produce.

An amendment to the bill inserted by the Senate would prohibit parties in a lawsuit from destroying any information relevant to lawsuits that were in the middle of litigation.

The measure also lowers the interest rate insurers must pay on overdue insurance claims from the current 12 percent to 7.5 percent.

The bill is backed by a host of powerful special interests – including insurance, business, agriculture, construction, and hospitals – led by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state’s largest business group. In addition to its lobbying clout on state spending and policy, WMC is among the leaders in spending on outside electioneering activities. WMC has doled out more than $18 million since January 2010 to support Republican and conservative candidates for legislative and statewide offices.

Between January 2011 and June 2017, more than a dozen special interests represented by WMC have directly contributed $35.5 million to Walker, who is seeking reelection to a third four-year term in November. Those same special interests contributed an additional $17.7 million to Republican legislators, who control the Assembly and Senate.

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