For Immediate Release: Wednesday, January 25, 2012
For More Information, Contact: Jane Garrott, Executive Director, (608) 257-5741

Wisconsin Legislators Continue Their Assault on Consumers' Rights

MADISON, WI - The Wisconsin Legislature continues to make it more difficult for consumers to obtain justice for injuries caused by defective products and paving the way to give special interests immunity from their negligence.

“Wisconsin citizens should know there are currently several proposals in a series of bills designed to protect particular businesses and others at the expense of state residents,” said Wisconsin Association for Justice (WAJ) President Ed Vopal.

On the State Assembly’s calendar for tomorrow morning – Thursday, January 26 – is Senate Bill 125, that would make it harder for consumers to recover damages caused to themselves or their vehicles due to defective highways, bridges, roads and sidewalks.

“SB 125 does nothing to help drivers or pedestrians who may be injured by a city or county’s failure to repair its infrastructure,” Vopal said.

Legislators are now promoting three more bills that further restrict the ability of Wisconsin consumers to seek compensation for injuries.

Senate Bill 388, providing immunity to ski area owners and operators, is misleadingly called the “Skier Safety Act.”  For example, it shifts the burden from the operator to the skier to assess and assume potentially unknown risks for use of a ski trail, such as hazardous trees, boulders or drop-offs.  It gives ski area operators almost complete immunity by allowing them to fulfill only very minimal duties to maintain safe facilities.  It allows ski areas to require that skiers sign in advance a release of all liability before they have opportunity to understand their risks, an item routinely rejected by the courts.

“SB 388 shifts responsibility for safety of the ski hill to the skier, rather than the people who own and maintain it,” Vopal said.  “It was not written to make ski areas safer.”

Another proposed law, Senate Bill 382, provides immunity for school districts that allow groups to use schools for recreational activity under agreement.  The bill adds another layer of legal immunity and leaves users of the school with no recourse for their injuries (for example, if the bleachers collapsed).
 
Finally, there is Senate Bill 373, which would retroactively apply new law to cases already filed against a group of lead paint manufacturers.  It would extend the reach of 2011 Wisconsin Act 2, which ended Wisconsinites’ ability to bring a lawsuit for certain claims involving a product older than 25 years.

Ingestion of paint chips can lead to poisoning in children, which has been shown to cause learning and digestive problems, poor coordination and hyperactivity.

“This bill is designed to derail – in the middle of the lawsuit – a case brought by people who may have been poisoned by lead paint,” Vopal said.  “Not only is it possibly unconstitutional, but it will pull the rug out from under children injured by these products.”

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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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