Madison– Labor and community groups gathered recently in the State Capitol to express concern over Special Session Senate Bill 1/ Assembly Bill 1 Tort Reform.
This is the first initiative of the emergency economic session and contains numerous changes to Wisconsin’s civil justice system which will negatively impact workers and their families.
“Unfortunately, the special session on job creation is being used as a cloak for corporate interests to achieve a long-desired goal – to deny meaningful access to the courts for workers who are injured or killed on the job, as well as consumers and other victims who have been harmed,” said Phil Neuenfeldt, President of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.
The Bill would have the following consequences for workers and the community:
• Changes punitive damages criteria for those injured on the job.
Victims of at work accidents will now have the burden of proving that the injury was “intended” by the employer in order to be awarded punitive damages.
This new heightened standard effectively closes the courthouse door to most victims of egregious conduct resulting in serious injury or death.
• Changes to product liability law that encourage the export of jobs. The bill requires that victims harmed by faulty products seek compensation from the manufacturer first. Since it is near impossible to track down manufacturers and pursue legal remedies in countries such as China, this bill creates a perverse incentive to shift more manufacturing jobs out of Wisconsin.
• Eliminates retailer responsibility for harmful products sold in sealed packages. This means that if a child is injured by a faulty toy the family has limited rights and options.
• Limits the rights of nursing home resident’s families to protect their loved one from negligent care. The bill changes legal standards for nursing homes making it significantly harder to hold institutions accountable.
“The legal climate sought by business through this legislation is one that nearly eliminates accountability to citizens for corporate wrongdoing and recklessness. This is not about job creation. This is an extreme shift in the balance of the law to dramatically favor corporate interest over ordinary people,” concluded Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.
Organizational sponsors of the press conference include the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, and the Wisconsin Association for Justice.