April 4, 2018
Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill on Tuesday sought by big business campaign contributors that slashes the amount of time people can sue for numerous injuries.
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. And, the deadline that people can sue for injuries caused by property improvements would be cut from 10 years to six years.
The new law also lowers the interest rate insurers must pay on overdue insurance claims from the current 12 percent to 7.5 percent.
Judges will also be allowed 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.
The bill was strongly backed by numerous powerful special interests – including business, manufacturers, construction, insurance, agriculture, and hospitals – led by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state’s largest business group.
WMC has doled out more than $18 million since January 2010 to support Republican and conservative candidates for legislative and statewide offices. The bill was approved by the GOP-controlled legislature along party lines with Republicans favoring it and Democrats opposing it.
In addition to WMC’s outside spending on elections, 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.