For Immediate Release
1/18/2011

Amendments to Special Session Bill 1 don't go far enough in protecting nursing home residents
 
MADISON, Wis. - The amendments made to Special Session Bill 1 today in the Assembly Judiciary Committee unfortunately do nothing to improve the bill and in some instances actually make the bill worse. The changes still leave nursing home residents vulnerable to neglect by limiting access to incident reports and limit punishment to deter bad conduct. And the bill still raises the standard of expert witness testimony to a level that threatens the well-being of children.

Mike End, President of the Wisconsin Association for Justice said, "The Assembly, as with the Senate previously, is taking a short sighted approach to amending this special session bill without a full understanding of what those changes will mean to the people and families of Wisconsin."

The bill still makes key changes to expert witness testimony known as "Daubert" which would make it more difficult to protect children in the care of Children in Need of Protection & Services. Currently, opinions as to the best interest of the child are considered "expert" opinions. These opinions often come from the child's social worker, counselor and teacher. Under this bill the opinions of the child's "own" social worker would be the subject of a hearing to determine if they could offer testimony in the best interest of the child.

Additionally, offenders with the most reckless behavior are let off the hook by placing a cap on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded. This change puts Wisconsin near the bottom of states with punitive damage caps. Punitive damages are those damages awarded only in the most egregious of cases as a method to deter bad behavior and outrageous conduct.

"The people in our communities who make up the courtroom juries are the same people our elected officials entrust to elect them. With this bill our elected officials are saying that they know best - not the people and the judge in courtroom - when it comes to determining who is at fault and who can testify," End said. "And to make the people that have the well-being of any child in mind meet a higher standard to testify is clearly misguided at best."
 
The Wisconsin Association for Justice stands with consumers to promote a fair and effective justice system for every citizen, not just the privileged and wealthy.

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