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Tort reform bill heads to Senate

The Wisconsin Assembly gave the green light this week to legislation that would change various parts of the state’s civil-litigation rules.

The version of Assembly Bill 773 that Assembly lawmakers approved Thursday would make various changes to the state’s rules governing discovery and electronically stored information, and also:

  • Decrease the interest rate charged on overdue insurance claims to 7.5 percent from 12 percent.
  • Decrease the window of time during which plaintiffs could sue a contractor for negligent design to allow suits within 7 years of when an injury occurred instead of the 10 years.
  • Repeal a provision of the new class-action rule adopted by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in December and replace it with language requiring the Court of Appeals to hear appeals of orders granting or denying class-certification if they were filed within 14 days of the orders. Granting such an appeal would stay all discovery and other proceedings, although courts could still consider any settlements reached by the parties.

The proposed changes to the state’s discovery rules would replace the state’s scope of discovery with a “proportionality” standard found in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, set up new standards for limiting the frequency and extent of discovery procedures and prevent parties from requesting information that dates back more than 5 years from when a cause of action accrued.

Changes to the rules governing discovery of electronically stored information would, among other things, restrict parties from obtaining electronically stored information unless they could show a “substantial need” for it.

The original version of the bill had contained provisions outlining a framework for regulating consumer-lawsuit lending. But that language stricken as part of a compromise brokered by one of the bill’s authors, state Rep. Mark Born, a Republican from Beaver Dam. Before that compromise, the bill’s prospects had appeared dim.

The Assembly approved AB 733 on a 60-34 vote on Thursday, sending it on the state Senate. If approved there, the bill would only need the governor’s signature to become law.

About Erika Strebel, [email protected]

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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