2015-2016 Session Highlights

There were 13 major changes affecting civil justice in Wisconsin.

Became Law (Effective Date)

  1. Statute of Limitations Changes --UM/UIM and Wrongful Death arising from an Auto Accident– 2015 Wisconsin Act 133 – (Applies to accidents occurring on or after February 6, 2016).

This bill makes several changes to the statutes of limitations applicable to auto accident claims (occurring on or after February 6, 2016):

  • UM/UIM Claims – 3 years from the date of accrual – accrual is the “date there is final resolution of the underlying cause of action by the injured party against the tortfeasor.” Wis. Stat. § 893.43(2) (codifying accrual language in UIM context from Yocherer v. Farmers Ins. Exch., 2002 WI 41, ¶22, 252 Wis. 2d 114, 643 N.W.2d 457).
  • Property Damage arising from a motor vehicle accident – 3 years from date of accrual. Wis. Stat. § 893.52(2).
  • Wrongful Death arising from a motor vehicle accident – 2 years from the date of accrual. Wis. Stat. § 893.54(2m).

See also Legislative Council Act Memo for 2015 Wisconsin Act 133.

  1. Dog Bites – Conditions Needed for Double Damages – 2015 Wisconsin Act 112 – (Effective November 13, 2015).

Amends Wis. Stat. § 174.02(1)(b) to read:

​[After notice.]...[T]he owner of a dog is liable for 2 times the full amount of damages caused by the dog biting a person with sufficient force to break the skin and cause permanent physical scarring or disfigurement if the owner was notified or knew that the dog had previously, without provocation, bitten a person with sufficient force to break the skin and cause permanent physical scarring or disfigurement.

Wis. Stat. § 174.02(1)(b)

  1. Worker’s Compensation – Advisory Council Bill Passes – 2015 Wisconsin Act 180(Effective March 2, 2016).

In February, the Governor signed into law the so-called Agreed Upon Bill,  AB-724. The bill was passed unanimously in each house of the legislature. The policy changes in the bill stemmed from the nationally recognized Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council process.

A plain language summary of the bill’s changes can be found here.

The Assembly did not consider legislation, originating from outside of the Advisory Council, that would have made more drastic changes to the program going forward.

  1. Damage Caps – Adult Sponsor LiabilitySponsor Liability Capped at $300,000 or available policy limits (whichever is higher) – 2015 Wisconsin Act 202 — (Effective March 3, 2016).

High School students in Wisconsin are required to have a parent or adult sponsor sign and verify their application for a motor vehicle license. Wis. Stat. § 343.15(1). Liability for any negligence or willful misconduct of a person under the age of 18 years when operating a motor vehicle is imputed onto the parents or adult sponsors. Wis. Stat. § 343.15(2)(b). Under this bill, the parents continue to be jointly and severally liable for the damages caused, but the liability imputed is limited to the higher of:


1. $300,000 for all parents or adult sponsors to all parties arising from any one accident. Wis. Stat. § 343.15(2)(b)1.

or

2. The limits of any insurance coverage provided to the minor under the parent's or adult sponsor's applicable insurance policies. Wis. Stat. § 343.15(2)(b)2.

See also Legislative Council Act Memo for 2015 Wisconsin Act 202.

  1. Campground Immunity – Immunity Granted to Private Campgrounds Under Certain Conditions – 2015 Wisconsin Act 293 – (Effective April 4, 2016).

Creates Wis. Stat. § 895.519, which provides immunity to private campground owners for a variety of actions deemed “inherent risks of camping.” Per the statute:

"Inherent risk of camping" means a danger or condition that is an integral part of camping, including dangers posed by any of the following:

1. Features of the natural world, such as trees, tree stumps, roots, brush, rocks, mud, sand, and soil.

2. Uneven or unpredictable terrain.

3. Natural bodies of water.

4. Another camper or visitor at the private campground acting in a negligent manner, where the campground owner or employees are not involved.

5. A lack of lighting, including lighting at campsites.

6. Campfires in a fire pit or enclosure provided by the campground.

7. Weather.

8. Insects, birds, and other wildlife.

Wis. Stat. § 895.519(1)(am).

See also Legislative Council Act Memo for 2015 Wisconsin Act 293.

  1. Statute of Limitations for Claims Against Real Estate Agents - Clams Must be Brought within Two Years or be barred - 2015 Wisconsin Act 258 – (Effective March 4, 2016).

This bill creates Wis. Stat. § 452.142, which reduces the statute of limitations for claims against real estate agents to:

[…] 2 years after whichever of the following that applies occurs first:

(a) A transaction is completed or closed.

(b) An agency agreement is terminated.

(c) An unconsummated transaction is terminated or expires.

Wis. Stat. § 452.142(1).

See also Legislative Council Act Memo for 2015 Wisconsin Act 258.

  1. Ski Hill Immunity – Amending Immunity to Include Summer Sports, Including Mountain Biking – 2015 Wisconsin Act 168— (Effective March 2, 2016).

This legislation intended to provide owners and operators of ski areas with the same immunity offered for alpine skiing to summer activities.  Most specifically, the bill adds immunity for mountain biking during the non-winter months. To do this, the bill amends several sections of the previously enacted ski hill immunity statute.

See Legislative Council Act Memo for 2015 Wisconsin Act 168.

See also 2011 Wisconsin Act 199 (SB-388) (providing immunity to ski hill operators). 

  1. Immunity for Placement of Buoys2015 Wisconsin Act 91— (Effective November 13, 2015).

Creates Wis. Stat. § 895.528. Wis. Stat. § 895.528(1) provides:

[A] person is immune from civil liability for damage or injury caused by placing, or failing to place, buoys or other markers in a waterway if all of the following apply:

(a) The person holds, or acts under the direction of a person who holds, a permit or other approval from the department of natural resources that authorizes the placement of the buoys or markers in the waterway.

(b) The permit or other approval described under par. (a) authorizes placement of buoys or markers for the purpose of identifying or marking hazards in the waterway.

Wis. Stat. § 895.528(1)(a)-(b).

See also Legislative Council Act Memo for 2015 Wisconsin Act 91

  1. Immunity for Placement of Fish Cribs and Fish Sticks2015 Wisconsin Act 220 – (Effective March 3, 2016).

Creates Wis. Stat. § 895.5265. This section provides immunity to those placing wooden structures in Wisconsin lakes through the Wisconsin DNR “Fish Sticks” and “Fish Cribs” programs. See Wis. Stat. § 895.5265.

See also Legislative Council Act Memo for 2015 Wisconsin Act 220.

  1. Regulation of Transportation Network Companies e.g., Uber and Lyft2015 Wisconsin Act 16 – (Effective May 3, 2015).

This legislation creates the regulatory regime for the operation of “Transportation Network Companies” such as Uber and Lyft to operate in Wisconsin. This broad legislation establishes the licensing and safety requirements applicable to these companies for the provision of ride services. The bill also provides the liability limits and requirements the companies must meet for receipt of service of process and other legal matters. Importantly, the bill preempts local ordinances at variance with the state regime.

See also Legislative Council Act Memo for 2015 Wisconsin Act 16.

  1. Structured Settlements2015 Wisconsin Act 94 – (Effective November 13, 2015).

This bipartisan legislation created a statutory regime for the transfer of structured settlements. The bill enacts a modified version of the Model State Structured Settlement Protection Act (2000).

See also Legislative Council Act Memo for 2015 Wisconsin Act 94.

  1. Lemon Law Simplification– 2015 Wisconsin Act 173(Effective March 2, 2016).

This bipartisan legislation simplifies the process a consumer must complete when making a claim under Wisconsin’s lemon law. Specifically, the bill repeals the requirement under Wis. Stat. § 218.0171 (8)(a)1 (2013-14) that the customer must use a DOT-prescribed form when seeking repair, replacement or refund under the state’s lemon law. The change was made retroactive to the origin of the requirement in 2014.

See also Legislative Council Act Memo for 2015 Wisconsin Act 173.

  1. Roundabout Right-of-Way2015 Wisconsin Act 139 – (Effective February 6, 2016).

This bill creates §§ 346.13 (5) and 346.18 (8) which, among other things, allows the operator of a semi-truck to deviate from their lane of travel to successfully navigate a roundabout. The bill requires that the operator of a smaller car yield to the larger vehicle if they are entering the roundabout at the same time. Under the bill, if two trucks are entering the roundabout at the same time, the large vehicle (truck) on the right must yield to the vehicle on the left.

See also Legislative Council Act Memo for 2015 Wisconsin Act 139.

Did Not Pass:

  1. Abrogating Wisconsin's Collateral Source Rule – AB-439/SB-405
  2. Workers Compensation –AB-501/SB-456

Others:

  1. Auto Self-Insurance for Religious Sects –AB-649/SB-534
  2. Auto Self-Insurance for Religious Sects and Uninsured Penalties AB-782/SB-638 (largely combining AB-92 with AB-649)
  3. Mandatory Insurance/Penalties-AB-92 
  4. Electronic Data Recorders – AB-838/SB-697 
  5. Erin’s Law – AB-498/SB-378 
  6. Access to Experimental Drugs – SB-125/AB-179
  7. Non-Compete  -   AB-91/SB-69

Full List of Bills Monitored by WAJ During the 2015-16 Session

In the past legislative session, several bills were introduced that affected the civil justice system.  To check what bills WAJ lobbied on, check the Wisconsin Ethics Commission's Eye on Lobbying Website. The website lists all bills on which WAJ has taken a position. 

If you need more information about any of these bills or WAJ’s position on them, please contact Jim Rogers: jim@wisjustice.org


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