Wisconsin Legislators Push to Simplify Litigation Process

MADISON, Wis. (CN) – A reform bill introduced Thursday by Wisconsin lawmakers proposes statutory changes that its sponsors say would streamline the Badger State’s civil-litigation system.

The proposal would amend state laws governing discovery in court proceedings, procedural requirements for class actions, the statute of limitations of certain civil cases, and other aspects of civil litigation.

Under the reform bill, known as LRB-4700, discovery of information in legal cases would be limited if the court finds the information duplicative, easier found through another source, or unrelated to the claims. The bill would also limit the types of electronic data that a party is required to provide.

Wisconsin lawmakers also want to alter procedures for class actions by creating prerequisites for filing such cases, differentiating between three types of class actions that can be certified, and requiring the court to be involved in class-action settlements, among other changes that would mirror federal laws.

Additionally, the bill addresses consumer lawsuit lending, which involves a plaintiff being provided cash to help with living or medical expenses during litigation in exchange for a portion of damages they recover. The legislation would require a plaintiff in that situation to give the court a copy of the lending transaction agreement and other related documents within 10 days of filing a lawsuit.

The statute of limitations for several types of civil actions would be reduced if the bill is passed and signed into law. Injury to character would drop from six years to three, and injury from improvements to real property would go from 10 years to six. Plaintiffs would also only have three years instead of six to file claims for any “liability created by statute when a different limitation is not prescribed by law and for action for relief on the ground of fraud,” according to the bill’s text.

The bill is sponsored by Wisconsin Reps. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, and John Nygren, R-Marinette, and state Sens. David Craig, R-Vernon, and Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said he helped the authors write the legislation.

“These common-sense reforms will make litigation simpler, less expensive for taxpayers, and more in line with the vast majority of states and the federal court system,” Schimel said in a statement. “As the state’s top civil defense law firm, DOJ’s representation of Wisconsin’s interests in court will benefit greatly from these efforts to reduce court costs and streamline our civil litigation system.”

Sen. Tiffany said via email Friday, “This package of bills makes Wisconsin’s litigation law more consistent with federal laws and tries to strike a balance in the process between all parties involved.”

Rep. Born and Sen. Craig declined to comment further on the bill. Rep. Nygren did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In addition to the proposed changes to discovery, class action and statute of limitations guidelines, the bill would prohibit Wisconsin’s secretary of revenue from entering into agreements allowing someone to audit another person’s “documents or records in order to administer the unclaimed property law or to purchase information arising from the audit, except for information received by the federal government.”

The legislation would also change overdue insurance claim interest rates from 12 percent to the Federal Reserve Board’s bank prime loan rate on Jan. 1 of the year when the insurer was given written notice of a claim, plus 1 percent.

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